Tuesday, July 28, 2015

He forgot the voters (again)






We devoted Saturday's snapshot to the Turkish government's efforts to use war against the Islamic State as a pretext to bomb northern Iraq in the supposed effort to defeat the PKK -- a group that they had entered into an armistice with.

The United States government appears to have given a nod of approval on the attacks in exchange for the right to use Turkish air bases.  Tian Shaohui (Xinhua) observes, "Critics, including opposition politicians, have accused President Tayyip Erdogan of trying to use the campaign against the Islamic State as an excuse to crack down on Kurds."

Patrick Cockburn (the Independent) observes:

The result is that the US may find it has helped to destabilise Turkey by involving it in the war in both Iraq and Syria, yet without coming much closer to defeating Isis in either country. If so, America will have committed its biggest mistake in the Middle East since it invaded Iraq in 2003, believing it could overthrow Saddam Hussein and replace him with a pro-American government. 

At today's State Dept press briefing, spokesperson John Kirby attempted to spin what is taking place.

QUESTION: Can we start with – not the trip, although – you have any questions – about the – what’s going on right now with the Turks? And it seems like a really bizarre situation has unfolded over the course of the past week with them joining the air strikes against ISIS, but at the same time also bombing PKK positions. And there’s been some pushback on the suggestion – I noticed that Brett McGurk tweeted about it – that these are related, and that the United States – he saying that there was no deal done with the Turks, in other words. A lot of people find that really hard to believe. So what exactly is going on here, and doesn’t this just make an even bigger mess out of the situation then you had originally?

MR KIRBY: I think – so let’s unpack. There’s an awful lot there, so let’s just unpack that. I don’t think that I could say it any better than Ambassador McGurk did. We are grateful for Turkey’s cooperation against ISIL to include now use of some of their bases for coalition aircraft to go against targets – ISIL targets, particularly in Syria. So we’re grateful for that support. The – so separate and distinct from that, Turkey has continued to come under attack by PKK terrorists, and we recognize their right to defend themselves against those attacks. And it was in retaliation for recent attacks by the PKK that Turkey conducted these most recent strikes.
As for ISIL in Syria, we continue to discuss with Turkey ways at which we can go after this particular threat. Again, we value their cooperation thus far. They have a vested interest, obviously, because of its – it’s their border. And while there’s nothing new to announce with respect to what kind of cooperation may come in the future, we’re going to continue to talk to them about that.
I understand the coincidence of all of this, but it is just that. The attacks against the PKK were in retaliations for attacks they, the Turks, endured, and what they’re doing against ISIL in Syria I’ll let them speak to. But obviously, we welcome all coalition members’ efforts against ISIL, particularly in Syria.

QUESTION: All right, well, one: Are you suggesting then that the Turks – the attacks on the PKK are going to – are over now and that the Turks have retaliated enough for the attacks on them? And secondly, are you not concerned that these attacks, while they are directed against a group that you have designated a terrorist organization – the Turks certainly believe are a terrorist organization – and I’m talking about the PKK – are you not concerned that that is going to hinder or hurt the fight against ISIS/ISIL?

MR KIRBY: I understand the second one. Am I concerned that their attacks against the PKK will detract from the fight against ISIL? Is that --

QUESTION: Yeah. They’re killing people that are killing ISIL.

MR KIRBY: The attacks against the PKK.



QUESTION: Right? I mean, am I wrong?

QUESTION: I mean, the PKK has been very effective against ISIL. They helped rescue Yezidis on Mount Sinjar. They’ve been fighting ISIS in Syria --

MR KIRBY: Yeah. No. I think I got it.

QUESTION: So there’s two in there.

MR KIRBY: Is it over now?

QUESTION: Have you been assured – or have you been told by the Turks that they’re – that this against the – the strikes against the PKK are limited duration and solely in retaliation for the attacks on them, and are going to stop?

MR KIRBY: Right.

QUESTION: And secondly, I mean, how does this not make it a big – it’s – how does this not hurt the fight against ISIS/ISIL?

MR KIRBY: Okay, so two questions. First of all, is it over now? I don’t know. That’s a question that you have to ask Turkish officials. They retaliated against the PKK for strikes that they received from PKK terrorists. We have long recognized the PKK as a foreign terrorist organization, and we recognize Turkey’s ability – or, I’m sorry, Turkey’s right – to defend itself against this group. So is it over now? I don’t know. And that’s really not a question that we can answer from this podium.
Two, does it hinder the fight against ISIL? What we’re trying to focus on here is a coalition to go after ISIL, counter ISIL. I recognize that, in some cases, the PKK have fought against ISIL. But they are a foreign terrorist organization. We designated them that, as an FTO. And our fight against ISIL is not in cooperation with, coordination with, or communication with the PKK. Our fight against ISIL is with 62 other nations in this coalition who are helping us go after these guys, and in Syria specifically. And again, DOD is working a train and equip program to get a moderate opposition capable enough to go after ISIL inside Syria.
So the fight against ISIL will continue. We are grateful for the contributions of Turkey and other coalition members. And the pressure that we are going to put on them, regardless of what Turkey is doing against the PKK or will do in the future, that’s not going to diminish.

Turkey's right to defend itself?

Kirby's just another flapping gum US official who has no interest in helping Iraq or what happens to Iraq.

Turkey is bombing northern Iraq.

John Kirby can dress that up in all the endless words he wants but that's what's happening.

And we remember what happened last time -- it outraged the Iraqi people.

That was then.


Not so different.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

The Vice President of the House of Representatives, Aram Sheikh Mohammed condemned the Turkish indiscriminate shelling on border areas in the Kurdistan region, stressing that the security of Turkey does not take place through the bypassing and breach Iraqi sovereignty and killing innocent civilians and burning and damaging farms without any justification.

He called on Ankara, in a statement today, not to fail the peace process in Turkey, saying unfortunately the Turkish government again deliberately violated Iraqi sovereignty and bombed Iraqi territory under the pretext of keeping its security and began random and intensified aerial bombardment on the border areas in the Kurdistan region, and as a result of this bombing, a number of innocent citizens were killed and this heinous and provocative act is unacceptable and we condemn that strongly

And NINA reports:

MP, of the Iraqi Forces Coalition, Dhafer al-Ani called on Turkey to open a dialogue with the federal government and coordinate with the Ministry of Defence on the subject of bombing PKK's positions.

Al-Ani said in a statement that there is no doubt that the security of Turkish and its friendly people and its stability concerns us and we are keen on its security and stability as we concern about ours and peace in all countries around us, and it is essential that there should be a regional security effort to hunt down terrorist organizations that infiltrate between the border, but this effort has to be conditional within the official coordination.

He added that the justifications provided by Turkish officials about their understandings with the Kurdistan Regional Government on the entry of their jets into Iraqi airspace and carry out military strikes to armed groups inside Iraqi territory are not sufficient justifications, as we were waiting for understandings with Baghdad government and coordination with the Ministry of Defense in accordance with the known official formats in order to preserve national sovereignty

Please note that Kirby could talk endlessly of Turkey's right to do whatever the hell it wanted but he seemed to think Iraq had no right to object to another country bombing it.

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