Turkey and Lebanon

Turkey and Syria
This analysis was posted by "Idaf"

Al-Dunia, a private Syrian satellite TV station is reporting from an “informed source” in the Syrian delegation to Turkey that Gul told Bashar that Israeli president tried to pre-empt Bashar’s visit when it was announced with a “self-invitation” to Turkey but the Turks rejected him to give way to the Syrian “state visit” to be the first State visit to the new Turkish president (and Bashar to be the first president to visit the new president).. a symbolic gesture and a privilege that is usually given to the closest ally in the country.

Israel is getting nervous. Earlier this month the AIPAC struggled to stop the “Armenian genocide” law in the US as it will impact Turkey-Israel/US relations. A month ago, Israel violated Turkey’s air space. A couple of weeks ago, the US did not allow Turkey to attack the PKK in Iraq. Now Turkey has decided that Europe, Israel and the US are playing it around. Full alliance with Syria appears to be its answer to them.

It seems that Turkey has decided to form a full alliance with Syria. The press conference today between the 2 presidents clearly displays some sort of strong alliance. Turkey has finally figured out that Syria is its “strategic depth” that needs to be kept in alliance. In return, and as a quick catch, Syria has just gave Turkey the Arab legitimacy to strike Kurdish PKK in north Iraq.

It seems that the Syrian foreign policy is finally becoming pragmatic and interest-oriented rather then ideology-driven. Apparently, Syria decided to cut all support to the Kurds. After decades of supporting Kurdish movements, activists and opposition figures in Iraq and Turkey (who in return turned against Syria with total obedience to the neo-cons on anti-Syria policy), Syria finally and wisely decided that Turkey is much more important. One could argue that Syria’s alliance today with Turkey is more concrete than that with Iran. It is definitely more popular in both countries. Turkish people I met in the last few years could not hide their affection with Syria and -hold your breath- Syrian president (and his wife). They keep going on and on about the “family ties”, “identical culture” and my favorite.. the “shared cuisine”!

The 2 countries just signed an MoU today on oil, water and free trade agreement. Bilateral trade is expected to be around $1.5 billion in 2007, more than triple the figure when the AKP came to power.

Gareth Jenkins has a good analysis on the DEEPENING RAPPROCHEMENT BETWEEN TURKEY AND SYRIA
October 17th, 2007, 7:56 pm


I have heard from a good source that when Hariri was in Washington last week and met with Eliott Abrams, Abrams advised him not to allow for a compromise candidate to be accepted as President. The Lebanese opposition is insisting on a compromise candidate for president. Patriarch Sfeir is recommending this solution, believing it preferable to continued crisis.

US 'to build military base in Lebanon'
Wed, 17 Oct 2007 20:28:02

The location of the US air base to be constructed in Lebanon.

The US plans to build an air base in northern Lebanon, in an area which borders Syria and is hardly 140 km from Damascus, sources say.

The American air base will also be located 22 air miles (40 km) from Tartous, Syria's main naval base and the Russian Mediterranean fleet's command center.

“According to US plan six military bases will be set up, three in Iraq, one in Jordan, one in Saudi Arabia and one in Lebanon. It is believed that the Lebanese government is approving the establishment of the base and the name of the base will be the US-Lebanese Center for Rehabilitation of the Army in order to cover the real activity of the base,” Amin Hotait, a retired army colonel told Press TV.

According to reports the Bush Administration gave the go-ahead for the plan following the talks with Chief of the US Central Command Admiral William Fallon and Lebanese officials on July 29.

The air base will bring the American military back to Lebanon after a 25-year absence. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan pulled US troops out of the country.

The US Air Force engineers and technicians have begun work on the new air base.

t_desco posted these articles on Lebanon:

UN envoy: Shaba Farms area may belong to Lebanon

The United Nations is becoming increasingly convinced that the Shaba Farms area belongs to Lebanon, according to UN envoy Geir Pedersen.

During a meeting recently with Amos Gilad, the head of the Political-Military Bureau at the Defense Ministry, Pedersen said that “the UN believes that there is merit in the Lebanese claims of sovereignty over Shaba Farms.”

The Norwegian diplomat stressed it would be beneficial if Israel initiated negotiations over this issue.

Nonetheless, in Israel officials are confident that Pedersen’s upcoming report to the Security Council will not require Israel to carry out significant steps in the matter.

“From our point of view this issue is off the agenda for good,” senior political sources said. “There is no point in talking about this any more. We have no room to show flexibility on this matter because that only strengthen’s Hezbollah and does not serve [Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora.”

US to build “strategic partnership” with Lebanese army, says Pentagon official

A senior Pentagon official said Thursday the U.S. military would like to see a “strategic partnership” with Lebanon’s army to strengthen the country’s forces so that Hezbollah would have no excuse to bear arms.

The comments by Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, in an interview aired on Lebanese television two days after his visit, followed a published report in Beirut that Washington is proposing a treaty with Lebanon to make it a strategic partner to counter increased Russian influence in neighboring Syria.

The report, published by the opposition-leaning newspaper As-Safir, was at the time vigorously denied by the government and ridiculed by the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon.

“This is totally untrue, said Ahmed Fatfat, a leading member of the government team who holds the youth and sports portfolio, adding that Lebanon neither sought nor had the Americans asked for such a treaty.

Edelman’s remarks, however, shed a new light on the emerging relationship between the Lebanese and U.S. militaries two months after the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam group was crushed in a 3-month long battle.


Nibras Kazimi is translating the Al-Akhbar articles on his blog, Talisman Gate:

Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 1 and 2

I decided to translate the roller-coaster testimony made by Faisal Akbar—the Saudi citizen (…we think) who first confessed to a role in the Hariri assassination after he was arrested in January 2006 but then retracted his statement—which was published in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar over the last week.

It’s a lot of material, so I am dividing it up into four parts. This is a fascinating window into jihadist tradecraft that we don’t usually see in such open-source detail, and it should be of value to analysts interested in jihadism and related security issues. This is not the generic material in jihadists manuals, this is the real stuff.

Come back tomorrow for Part 2. I tried to adhere as much as possible to the original Arabic so that the tone and wording is not lost in translation. This makes it a bit of a clunky read.

This first translated chunk appeared in Al-Akhbar on October 10, 2007, under the byline of Fida’ ‘Itani.

Comments (40)

Enlightened said:


Lets take a serious look at why there will be a re approachment between Turkey and Syria, forget the trade deal, water rights etc. Their interests converge on one matter and that is regarding The Kurdish Issue. Both have sizable Kurdish minorities. In the event of a Kurdish breakaway state from Iraq (declaring Independence) eventuates, you can bet that both states will employ every means necessary to prevent this.

With the Kurdish region now signing oil deals with foreign companies (these are viewed as illegal by the Iraqi government) and the region showing increased signs of wealth and independence and an ability to provide security and services, these signs are a huge worry especially to the Turks. ( There is still the referundum on Kirkuk to come).

The Turks have been very pragmatic here, and consider this issue as an existential one. This is the real reason for the re approachment. I wonder If Bashar brought up the Issue of Iskandaroun with the Turks?

Re Lebanon:

The issue of the air base was posted on Debka about a week and a half ago. I pasted a link at that time. Personally I think this is a no brainer, there are reports out today with the Lebanese government denying it, The Army commander denying it, Ministers denying it (get the drift), so it must be going ahead (lolz)

October 19th, 2007, 3:13 am


MSK said:

Dear Josh,

Could you be so kind and include a link to the source of the “US airbase in Lebanon” article?

As for the Al-Safir article, it also claims there are to be three US land bases (one near the Cedars, one in Damur [south of Beirut], and the third in, out of all places, Baalbek) and two naval bases, in Tripoli & Nahr al-Barid (because they couldn’t decide between the two?).

–> When you think that conspiracy theories can’t get any more hilarious … they DO. 😉

Re: Turkish-Syrian rapprochement – Enlightened is right on the mark, except where he says that “these [the Kurdish oil agreements] are viewed as illegal by the Iraqi government.” The Kurds are PART of the government. There are some within the Iraqi gov’t, like the Oil Minister, who say that the Kurdish agreements with foreign companies are illegal, but the Iraqi government as such has no position on this issue – the many Kurdish ministers in it would just veto any measure. Also, the President of Iraq – the country has a bit of a dual executive, shared between Presidency Council and Cabinet – is a Kurd.

So Syria is using the Kurdistan issue to try to get the Turks become friends again. Let’s see how that’ll go. Syria needs Turkey – but Turkey doesn’t need Syria.


October 19th, 2007, 6:38 am


MSK said:

Dear Alex et.al.-

On Nibras’ blog I came across an assertion that I hadn’t seen anywhere else:

“Today’s event [the assassination of Abu l-Qaaqaa — MSK] is yet another indicator that jihadists are becoming more active in Syria, especially in Aleppo and in the rural belt around it. Five months ago, a jihadist cell held out for several hours while battling Syrian security forces in a farm to the south of the town of Zahra.

Organized crime—including large scale robberies and murders—has also been on the rise in Aleppo in recent months, according to sources there.

A U.S. military intelligence source had told me recently that they are witnessing the flight of many Al-Qaeda/ISI fighters from Iraq across the Syria border.

Syria could be a fertile ground for the jihadists.”


What do the Syrians from Aleppo or those with contacts to Aleppo make of this?


October 19th, 2007, 10:09 am


t_desco said:

Actually, the As-Safir article speaks of training facilities in the places mentioned by MSK.

Even that would seem unlikely without a civil war, so is that now Washington’s preferred option? Impeding all efforts to find a compromise candidate seems to confirm this.

Looking for sources? Google is your friend:

US ‘to build military base in Lebanon’
Press TV

October 19th, 2007, 10:50 am


MSK said:


“Press TV”? Ya’nii … the Iranian CNN? Are you serious?

That’s … like quoting Al-Siyasah … 😉


October 19th, 2007, 12:16 pm


Friend in America said:

From USA Today, a national newspaper in America.
An innocent error by a interpreter created a stir in the ME, as it should have. Getting 2 or 3 different sources to confirm is difficult but until then conclusions remain tentative. That there was an interpreters error does not men a there was no nuclear facility; it only means the Syrian Ambassador to the UN did not admit there was a nuclear facility.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations blamed an interpreter’s error for an erroneous report that Syria claimed an Israeli airstrike hit a Syrian nuclear facility, a mistake that made headlines in the Middle East and heightened concerns over Damascus’ nuclear ambitions.
Syria denied on Wednesday that one of its representatives told the U.N. General Assembly’s committee that deals with disarmament on Tuesday that Israel had attacked a Syrian nuclear facility and added that “such facilities do not exist in Syria.”

The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency, SANA, quoting an unnamed Foreign Ministry source, said its representative was misquoted — and after more than seven hours of investigation the United Nations said that was indeed the case.

“There was an interpretation error made yesterday when the First Committee was in session,” U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said. “There was no use of the word nuclear.”

“Although in English the interpreter had suggested that the Syrian delegate had referred to an attack on a nuclear facility, what he said was ‘like what happened on the 6th of September against my country,”‘ Haq said

October 19th, 2007, 1:22 pm


t_desco said:


you asked for the link, I googled it for you, and now you ask if I am “serious”? May I assume that you were not seriously asking for a link…? 😉

More sillyness from the Washington Post:

“The bombed facility is different from the one Syria displayed to journalists last week to back its allegations that Israel had bombed an essentially an empty building, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity because details of the Israeli attack are classified.”

This is not true. Syria displayed the facility to prove that it had not been bombed as many media reports (including one by a visiting Ynetnews reporter) had claimed.

The article also fails to ask why Americans and Israelis do not simply hand over the “overhead photography” of the site to the IAEA if they are really so concerned about Syrian attempts to hide the “precise nature of the facility”:

“The IAEA has not been provided any evidence about the Syrian facility and has been unable to obtain any reliable details about the Sept. 6 strike, said a European diplomat familiar with the agency’s internal discussions.”

Syrians Disassembling Ruins at Site Bombed by Israel, Officials Say
By Robin Wright and Joby Warrick
Washington Post

October 19th, 2007, 1:33 pm


MSK said:



I do appreciate your kind help in finding the link to the story & herewith shift my

“‘Press TV’? Ya’nii … the Iranian CNN? Are you serious?

That’s … like quoting Al-Siyasah … ;)”

from you to Josh who had included the story in the post.

Cheers & all that,


October 19th, 2007, 1:44 pm


ausamaa said:

Best News of the month goes to the closer ties between Syria and Turkey.

Good news as well the US denial of a serious interest of having an air base in Northern Lebanon. It means that the US knows that it is NOT POSSIBLE. Anyway, I never thought it was a serious “intent” of serious people in the US to do that. Considering the fact that Sebka File seems to be the new “publisher” of such plans.

BTW, if the US needs to set up a base in Northern Lebanon, then what is the STRATIGIC Value of having an ISRAEL there? The Israelies were put there to play that Role? So what gives? It just does not add up. But it is good that the US denided it.

Both Arabs and Israelies were assured..!!

Why are the Saudies and Egyptians silent nowadays? Afraid of committing more mistakes?


October 19th, 2007, 2:14 pm


Friend in America said:

Associated Press – October 19, 2007 11:13 AM ET
The following as released about 15 minutes ago. The IAEA has a history of talking first, looking later.

VIENNA, Austria (AP) – Officials with the United Nations nuclear agency are analyzing satellite pictures of a reported nuclear site in Syria.

A diplomat tells The Associated Press the photos came from U.S intelligence. They show the site that was targeted by Israeli warplanes last month.

Another diplomat says a first look at the photos does not seem to confirm reports that the site was a nuclear installation. But the diplomat said the images are still being examined.

October 19th, 2007, 3:24 pm


SimoHurtta said:

Unnamed U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the event + Bolton giving again interviews

Syrians Disassembling Ruins at Site Bombed by Israel, Officials Say

Syria has begun dismantling the remains of a site Israel bombed Sept. 6 in what may be an attempt to prevent the location from coming under international scrutiny, said U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the aftermath of the attack.

Based on overhead photography, the officials say the site in Syria’s eastern desert near the Euphrates River had a “signature” or characteristics of a small but substantial nuclear reactor, one similar in structure to North Korea’s facilities.

October 19th, 2007, 3:34 pm


Kaan of Hacettepe Univ. said:

A Ratification and contribution to the analysis of IDAF

Although IDAF says “Bashar to be the first president to visit the new president”, the first presidential visit to Turkish President GUL was paid by Kazakhistan President Nursultan NAZABGAYEV on October 1. (http://www.zaman.com.tr/webapp-tr/haber.do?haberno=595260).

And a contribution to the MoA signed by Syria and Turkey during President ASSAD. the Semi-official Turkish Press Agency, Anatolian Agency (October 17, 2007), says the MoA includes, besides oil, water and free trade, also political and security issues. According to The MoA, the parties will have a mutual cooperation and consultancy on the matters that are related to both sides, and go on cooperation on terrorism already established between the sides.

October 19th, 2007, 3:42 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:

the US does not need an airbase to counter anything from a country like syria. besides, they have (and will continue to have) their bases in neighboring iraq which is close enough.

as for the turkey-syria reapprochment, i wouldnt read much into that. First of all Syria has very little it can offer Turkey other than vocal support from a neighbor on the kurdish issue. So Turkey is very much in the driver seat on this one and it’s interest, if forced to choose, will always lay with the US, Europe and Israel over Syria. Turkey just feels it can play the Syria card right now because the americans & the europeans are not playing nice. that does not mean they are shifting strategies. I think Idaf’s analysis is way too optimistic.

October 19th, 2007, 5:14 pm


Seeking the truth said:

I wonder, do they still teach in the Syrian schools’ history textbooks that Iskenderun (Hatay) Province was severed from the mother land Syria.

October 19th, 2007, 5:50 pm


ausamaa said:


Yes they still do, same as they do in Turkey about the Ottoman Empire which the Arabs (cooperating with the West in many instances) helped to break up! This answers that god intention question I guess


“Idaf’s analysis is way too optimistic”

What would really make you beleive that the Tide is Turning against the crazy US poilcies in the are. Crazy to the degree of making enemies of long time friends, and everyone practically?

Did you notice what kind of Political tide is rulling the streets of Turkey? And reassertingitself in two consecutive elections? The Islamic one; by nature, its has an anti-Israel anti-US inlination. Does’t that make things look a bit more “optimistic” in your view??

By the way, one should take a look at the World map, shade the block of countries that include IRAQ, IRAN, SYRIA and LEBANON in ONE COLOR, add Turkey for the sake of little more fun, check how close it is to the ex-Soviet Union and to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and then you can imagine the sense of Excitement current US policy makers have when they look at such eventual FACTS on the ground (as opposed to visions Dubbya get), and you can imagine how desperate can look from their side. How would that make Israel feel? Why do you think everyone is sweating?

In your book, this would surely mark me as OVER optimistic?

October 19th, 2007, 5:58 pm


t_desco said:

US intelligence does not show Syrian nuclear weapons program, officials say

Cheney hand seen behind leaks of ‘misleading’ stories

Allegations that a Syrian envoy admitted during a United Nations meeting Oct. 17 that an Israeli air strike hit a nuclear facility in September are inaccurate and have raised the ire of some in the US intelligence community, who see the Vice President’s hand as allegedly being behind the disinformation.

Recent news articles, however, continue to make allegations and suggest that a nuclear weapons facility was hit — something that the Syrian government has denied, the Israeli government has not officially confirmed and US intelligence does not show.

According to current and former intelligence sources, the US intelligence community has seen no evidence of a nuclear facility being hit.

US intelligence “found no radiation signatures after the bombing, so there was no uranium or plutonium present,” said one official, wishing to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject.

“We don’t have any independent intelligence that it was a nuclear facility — only the assertions by the Israelis and some ambiguous satellite photography from them that shows a building, which the Syrians admitted was a military facility.”

Their statements come as officials claim Syria has begun to ‘disassemble’ the site. An article today quotes former Administration hawk and onetime Bush United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, who links Syria’s alleged action with Iran.

Israel has not spoken publicly about the air raid, other than to confirm that it happened. The confirmation came nearly a month after the Sept. 6 bombing, and provided only that “Israeli officials said the strike took place deep inside Syria.”

“‘Radiation signatures’ are just the particular type of radiation that some activity would give off,” Dr. Ivan Oelrich, a nuclear weapons expert at the Strategic Security Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told RAW STORY. “For example, a nuclear bomb would produce a lot of radioactivity and a nuclear reactor explosion would produce a lot of radioactivity but if you measure it carefully so you can tell, not just that it is radioactive, but exactly what particular isotopes are contributing, then it is easy to tell the difference.

“If a reactor explodes or is blown up then I can, with careful measurements of the particular types of radiation, tell what the fuel was for the reactor and how long the reactor had been running when it was hit,” Oelrich added. “It gets complicated because you have to take into account how different species are transported in the air, how fast they decay, etc. but it can be done.”

An earlier report by Raw Story cited Vincent Cannistraro, Director of Intelligence Programs for the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan and Chief of Operations at the Central Intelligence Agency’s Counterterrorism Center under President George H. W. Bush, as saying that what the Israelis hit was “absolutely not a nuclear weapons facility.”

The Central Intelligence Agency, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Administration said to leak stories to press

One US intelligence source familiar with the events expressed concern about recent news reports describing Syria as having a functioning nuclear weapons program and cautioned against attributing those reports to the US intelligence community.

“The allegations that North Korea was helping to build a nuclear reactor have not been substantiated by US intelligence,” said this intelligence official, adding, “ but that hasn’t stopped Dick Cheney and his minions at the NSC, Elliot Abrams and Steve Hadley, from leaking the information [to the press], which appears to be misleading in the extreme.”

Requests for comment to the National Security Council went unanswered.

What concerns intelligence officials is what appears to be manipulation of the press and strategic leaks to the public of false information, undercutting professional intelligence analysis, similar to what occurred before the Iraq war in an apparent effort to bolster support for engaging Iran.
Larisa Alexandrovna/The Raw Story

October 19th, 2007, 6:29 pm


Observer said:

As I wrote before, the only true nation states in the region are Turkey, Iran, and Egypt. Egypt is totally irrelevant now as its current leadership is nothing more than a “doorman” to the US/Israel agenda. The other two countries are Turkey and Iran and both have a 25 year plan on how to proceed on the economic educational and social agenda. Iran in my opinion is further along as it is securing its energy base, its technological independence, and perhaps its banking and financial status as well. Demographically, Iran has 80% of the women literate, and the size of the family is now 2 children per couple similar to many mature societies. They lag on the political maturity but again are further ahead than any Arab country. Their investments in Syria and Iraq is positioning them to lead in the Levant after the eclipse of the current US administration. Turkey is seeing the door closing on its European integration project and is positioning itself to have a strategic depth in the Turkic speaking regions to the East as well as in the ME. Both Turks and Iranians have contempt among some elites for anything Arab and the Shah taught the Iranians that all ills came with the Arab conquest and Ataturk blamed the Arabs for stabing Turkey in the back during WWI and religion as a backwardness. Both countries are maturing enough to meld very well their national aspirations and identities with their Islamic heritage. The only movement that comes close to a similar view is the Baath ideology. In contrast to Itan and Turkey, the Baath party became quickly the domain of minorities ruling over majorities through dictatorship and that spelled doom for it and led to a quick sclerosis of its ideas. Adopting socialism as the core economic principle in pre modern pre industrialized agragrian societies was also one of the nails in its coffin. Therefore, to make a long story short, what we are seeing is the return to the old nation states that were empires and that are filling the vaccum created by the US debacle in Iraq and the complete paralysis of the Saudi leadership at present. It is telling that the Saudi unroyal family cannot even control the situation in one of its fiefs namely Lebanon.

October 19th, 2007, 6:32 pm


ausamaa said:


Excellent points and anlysis.

October 19th, 2007, 6:36 pm


EHSANI2 said:

Since my father currently lives in Turkey, I thought that it would make sense to hear his views about this visit. Set below is his impression:

The real star of this trip is Asma. She is an iconic figure in Turkey.

Every TV channel and newspaper article is memorized by her every move. To a certain extent, she has overshadowed her husband. Her looks, demeanor and attitude were enough to have her being described by the Turkish President as a “virtuous” lady in the official welcoming speech.

There is no question that the Kurdish issue has had a strong influence over this new rapprochement between the two countries. However, this is not the only common issue. This relationship has been on the mend for a number of years now. The free trade agreement is yet to be fully implemented but the framework is there. There is no doubt that more business will take place between the two countries in the near future. This is good for both countries but especially for Syria. Turkey offers an enormous potential for Syrian exports especially out of industries that require cheap labor. Syria will exploit this potential without a doubt once the geopolitical background allows for more investments to pour in. The quicker Syria can ditch socialism and red tape, the quicker the country can benefit from this relationship.

As a Turkish speaker and a person who has frequented that country for years, I am ecstatic that this relationship is on the ascendancy. It is a win-win for both countries. Asma is revered in Turkey. The Syrian first couple has developed a massive following by everyone there. Let us hope that this love affair will translate into more economic growth opportunities for our people.

October 19th, 2007, 6:49 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

This is rich:
“Turkey offers an enormous potential for Syrian exports especially out of industries that require cheap labor.”

If this is true then Syria is a real basket case. “Cheap labor” is what can already be found in Turkey.

October 19th, 2007, 7:19 pm


EHSANI2 said:

It is not true. Syria’s labor costs are significantly lower than those in Turkey. By cheap labor, I mean labor-intensive industries. Countries with low labor costs are not necessarily “basket” cases.
China is an example. Vietnam is another. Labor-intensive industries offer a differential advantage and this is what these countries ought to utilize.

October 19th, 2007, 7:29 pm


ausamaa said:


WE can guess that you must be very unhappy with improved relations between Syria and Turkey, but “choosing” the cheap labor issue to pick on is a silly thing. You could have found more interesting ways to demonstrate the “unimportance” and the “doubt” that can be associated with such improved relations. But “cheap Labor” of all other issues??!!

Unless your comment is made for the sake of maintaining a “presence” on Syria Comment? You know what I mean!!


October 19th, 2007, 7:56 pm


Friend in America said:

If allowed to fester this will become another crisis type problem in the ME:
International Tribune 19 Oct
Turkey’s decision to allow the dispatch of troops over Iraq’s border in pursuit of Kurdish guerrillas throws into relief a troubling quandary for Iraq’s leaders.
On one hand, Iraq wants a cordial relationship with Turkey, a powerhouse in the region and a counterweight to the competing pulls of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
But Iraq has been able to do little to halt the rebel group’s activities because Iraq’s central government must rely on its ethnic Kurdish minority, which populates the region where the guerrillas are active, to take a stand against them.

Another factor complicating matters for the Iraqi government is that the Qandil mountains of the border region with Turkey are among the most rugged areas in the Middle East, and the area has never been fully under any government control.

Iraq’s Kurdish region has been semi-autonomous since 1991 and controls its own armed forces, which also patrol the border with Turkey. All ethnic Kurds, they are reluctant to fight the rebels because it means fighting brother Kurds, with whom they are generally sympathetic.
The guerrillas are ethnic Kurds who come primarily from Turkey and speak Turkish. The rebel group, known by its Turkish initials PKK, has an estimated 3,000 fighters in the mountains of northwest Iraq, from which they carry out attacks on Turkey. In the past, the rebel group has aspired to have an autonomous state in Turkey, though it is unclear exactly what the group’s demands are now.

While the Kurds in northern Iraq are not thought to participate in the activities of the Turkish rebel group, neither have they sought vigorously to eradicate the rebels — in part because it would be tantamount to going after their own. “The PKK members are Kurds just as we are,” said Rebwar Karem, 31, a student at Sulaimaniya University on Thursday. “The state of Turkey hates the Kurds so while we don’t respect the armed struggle of the Kurds in Turkey, I’m against anyone who orders them to leave” the Kurdish area of Iraq.
At a protest on Thursday in Erbil, marchers carried signs that swore allegiance to Kurds, wherever they might be in the region. “Kurdistan is one and all Kurds are pesh merga,” said one sign, a reference to Kurdish fighters.
In a statement on Wednesday the Kurdistan Regional Government affirmed its opposition to the rebel group’s violent acts but warned Turkey not to tell the Kurds how to run their affairs. “We do not interfere in the internal affairs of Turkey, and we expect the same in return,” it said. The regional government “condemns the killing of innocent people in Turkey and does not believe that violence solves any problem,” the statement said.

Western officials say that neither Iraq’s Kurds nor the central government has much of an incentive to act vigorously against the guerrillas. “The Iraqi government would like PKK to go away, but when you’re in Baghdad, that stuff seems very far away,” said an American official who is familiar with the region, but who refused to be quoted by name because he is not authorized to speak publicly about the issue. “As for the Kurdistan Regional Government, I don’t get any sense of fondness in domestic Kurdish politics for the PKK, but the idea of taking action against fellow Kurds is anathema.”
The official added that the Kurdistan Regional Government looked at the situation pragmatically. The Iraqi Kurds have other concerns, like attacks by Sunni Arab insurgents, especially in places like the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, where there is a struggle for control. “The PKK isn’t the first thing that come to their mind. It’s the bombings in Sulaimaniya and Kirkuk and their argument is, ‘Yes the PKK is killing Turks, but are they an existential threat to Turkey? No. Are they going to bring down the Turkish government? No.'”

None of that, however, is much comfort to the Turks. Several thousand have died since the early 1980s when the rebel group was formed. The latest rebel attack in Turkey on Oct. 7 killed 13 Turkish soldiers. A measure of Kurdish reluctance in northern Iraq to judge fellow Kurds is that several Kurds explained in interviews that killing Turkish soldiers was a defensible action.

October 19th, 2007, 7:56 pm


ausamaa said:


It just occured to me, if Turkey attackes the bases in Northern Iraq, have you made sure that Israel had evacuated all of its Israeli agents, advisors or military trainers, out of that troubled zone?

October 19th, 2007, 8:00 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Well, how much does a Syrian make a day relative to a Turk or a Chinese? What are the numbers?

October 19th, 2007, 8:51 pm


why-discuss said:


Excellent analysis.
The Bush admnistration policies encouraged by the neo-cons with the double aim of controlling the oil and creating a new ally in the region to protect Israel has backlashed and had created instead a totally new dynamic where the big winner is Iran. A second consequence is the growing anti-US feeling in Turkey’s street that has reflected in a rapprochement that could be a threat to the US interests and allies in the region. I don’t believe Turkey’s new policies are as erratic as some here are hoping.

October 19th, 2007, 8:55 pm


t_desco said:

UN nuclear agency examines Syria images

U.N. experts have begun analyzing satellite imagery of the Syrian site struck last month by Israeli warplanes, looking for any signs it was a secret nuclear facility, diplomats said Friday.

It was unclear where the material was obtained or what exactly it showed. One of the diplomats, who is linked to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the experts were studying commercial images, contrary to earlier suggestions they came from U.S. intelligence.

Separately, a senior diplomat familiar with the issue indicated the experts were looking at several possible locations for the Israeli strike. Two other diplomats said initial examination of the material found no evidence the target was a nuclear installation, but emphasized it was too early to draw definitive conclusions.

All of those who spoke to The Associated Press were briefed on the agency’s receipt of the images but demanded anonymity because their information was confidential.

The IAEA investigation is significant because it is the first case of an independent and respected organization looking at the evidence and trying to reach a conclusion as to what was hit.

Officials of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog and the U.S. diplomatic mission to the IAEA had no comment Friday. But IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming indirectly rebuked Washington earlier this week, saying the agency “expects any country having information about nuclear-related activities in another country to provide that information to the IAEA.”

Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, cautioned that without full U.S. cooperation, the IAEA’s probe might be hampered because commercial satellite imagery “may not be of sufficient quality to figure out difficult questions.”

Still, he welcomed IAEA involvement as an opportunity for a neutral organization to “provide an assessment and give the international community some guidance about what has or has not happened.”

Syria denies it has an undeclared nuclear program and North Korea has said it was not involved in any nuclear program in the Mideast nation. Damascus has said the Israelis targeted an empty building, and the agency has said it has no evidence to the contrary.

The diplomats said Vienna-based Syrian diplomats have met with senior IAEA representatives since the bombing and have provided no substantive information that would indicate their country had nuclear secrets. …

October 19th, 2007, 8:57 pm


Jamal said:

TO OBSERVER: I was a little surprised to read your comments about Iran’s sound economic prospects with its 25-year plan and so on. But I am open to having my reading redirected.

Examples of my current reading:

* According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Iran, though rich in human and natural resources, has high levels of income inequality (with a high Gini coefficient of inequality of 0.45) and poverty (16 percent of the population is below the national poverty line). Economic growth per capita was stagnant during most of the 1980s and 1990s. While this has improved with the increase in oil revenues, the majority of the population has not benefited.

*(on Iran’s petrol rationing riots this year) Moves to cut consumption of gasoline were inevitable in a country that has plenty of oil and gas yet is forced to import about 40 per cent of its needs because of a lack of investment in refining capacity. The imported fuel has been given away at hugely subsidised prices, creating a staggering bill and encouraging smuggling….Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has been on a spending spree that has bolstered his popular appeal but also pushed up inflation and reduced the revenues that would have accrued in the Oil Stabilisation Fund, designed to save for periods of low oil prices (Source: Financial Times July 2, 2007)

* (on Ahmadi-Nejad’s bragging about making Iran self-sufficient in wheat) But while Iran no longer needs to rely on wheat imports, the pursuit of self-sufficiency has had hidden costs, creating shortages in other produce and raising the government’s import bill… as more and more land has been diverted to wheat cultivation the production of cattle feed, cotton, potatoes and grains has suffered, sending prices higher and pushing the government to increase its imports. Wheat is also highly subsidised – the government buys wheat from farmers at $200 (£98) a tonne and sells flour at $50 a tonne to bakers. The distortions are seen by regime critics as an example of the waste and economic mismanagement that has bedevilled the Iranian economy for decades and has been exacerbated by the policies of the current government. (Source: Financial Times October 12, 2007)

October 19th, 2007, 9:00 pm


AnotherIsraeliGuy said:


We made sure to take our agents out of the Syrian nuclear facility before we bombed it, that much I can tell you.

I wish the Turks every success. It will only bring more business to the Israeli defense industries that upgraded both the Turkish tanks and planes.

October 19th, 2007, 9:02 pm


idaf said:

Enlightened and MSK,

While the Kurdish issues is one of the key driving factors in this rapprochement, the more important driver here is Turkey’s strong desire in playing a more active role in the Middle East. This is part of the AKP’s strong Ottoman nostalgia and its vision of Turkey emerging as a neo-Ottoman regional power. This could be compared to Syria’s nostalgia and desire for playing an active role in its historic neighborhood “Bilad el-Cham” or “Greater Syria”.

PS. MSK: Here’s some more on the US base story (other than Press TV).

On the contrary, Syria can offer Turkey a lot (some of it can exclusively be offered by Syria). First and foremost, a stable and prosperous Syria is a core Turkish national security goal. But more importantly for Turkey, Syria is its gateway to the Arab world (the economic implications of the millions of tons of Turkish products that make it through Syria to the Gulf countries are not be underestimated). On the political level, Syria can provide Turkey something very important that no other Arab country can offer.. an Arab legitimacy to all Turkish tactical or strategic policies vis-a-vis any Arab country (casein point: Iraq). Syria also is arguably the only country in the whole world that can offer Turkey something very dear to it.. international recognition for the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (as long as the EU keeps snubbing Syria and as long as Cyprus is feeling that it is OK to stop Syria-bound ships for inspections under US orders).

Your father makes many good points.
Almost every Syrian uses several Turkish words in his/her daily life (and vise versa in Turkey). The inter-cultural effects are strong among the two nations.
With regards to Asma (the first Syrian lady), she’s very popular specially among the Turkish ladies. A friend of mine who’s a researcher on gender issues in the ME, said that Asma Assad has a “Diana Effect” (referring to the late Princess Diana) on Syria and Bashar among the Turkish people (ie. people can associate with her on the human level and relate to her as a modern, successful,good-looking, smart, down-to-earth and “virtuous” which reflect as an invaluable impact on her country’s and husband’s image). In an unbiased world, someone like her would definitely get the “Queen Rania” treatment in the US (repeatedly hosted by Oprah, invited to chair events in the US, etc.) if only she wasn’t the “Syrian first lady”.

Moreover, Bashar as well is undoubtedly becoming massively popular in Turkey. How much more popularity points do you think Bashar has scored among the millions of sport fans in both countries with this? (Yes, foorball legends such as Zicco and Roberto Carlos are seen rubbing shoulders with Bashar in Istanbul in some of the linked photos)!

October 19th, 2007, 9:17 pm


idaf said:

Syria just sent an official letter to the UN in response to the one sent by Saniora. Sana has more details and quotes from the official letter.

Here’s AP’s shorter version of the story in English:
Syria says U.S. interference in Lebanon threatens country’s stability

October 19th, 2007, 9:26 pm


IsraeliGuy said:

It seems to me like some of the posters here give the Assad visit to Turkey too much significance, but hey, if you wish to take out the Champagne bottles and start a Hafla, be my guest : )

The truth? you deserve a party.
I mean, finally Assad gets to be invited somewhere which is not Iran or North Korea.
Not easy these days.

On a more serious note, Turkey’s strategic direction is NATO, the EU and the west in general – not Syria.

Since the Turks are angry at the American Congress for promoting the Armenian genocide bill, they decided to ‘punish’ them a little bit with a small meaningless flirt with Assad.

The Turks also wanted to throw Assad a bone after the Sept. 6th IAF mission and appease him a little bit, for understandable reasons.

This is pretty natural, due to the short term circumstances, but I don’t see it as a new strategic direction by Turkey.

Actually, the Syrians are just being used here as pawns to reflect the Turkish anger at the congress decision (which is not final yet and can change soon).

By the way, Olmert met Putin yesterday in four eyes.
Does it mean that there’s a new huge strategic alliance between Russia and Israel?
Of course not.
It’s just a meeting.

But I really understand your happiness.
When people feel besieged, any ray of light would make a huge impact on one’s mood.

October 19th, 2007, 9:27 pm


Nour said:

It’s funny how the Israelis here are trying desperately to downplay the visit by President Bashar el-Assad to Turkey. Israeliguy went so far as to compare it to Olmert’s visit to Russia. Of course, Israeliguy failed to mention that President Assad’s visit lasted 3 days and included an agreement on stronger cooperation in economic, industrial, and other fields, none of which accompanied Olmert’s visit to Russia.

October 19th, 2007, 9:51 pm


idaf said:

IsraeliGuy you’re not making much sense.

Olmert’s visit to Putin was out of frustration and a last minute attempt to make Putin change course on all or any of the fronts that he is snubbing the US and Israel on in the last month (Iran, Iraq, Syria.. etc). Olmert was undoubtedly begging and doing some “bazaar” in Moscow with Putin trying to change his mind. I’m sure Olmert did put A LOT of potential Israeli concessions on Putin’s table in return of any change in Russia’s policies. Not a very comfortable situation for Israel, it is just damage control and a try to limit the losses. NO need for celebration.

On the other hand, Bashar will return from a 4 day trip to Turkey (alongside half of his government and Syrian mega businessmen) with a hugely diverse package of deals, treaties, agreements on energy, security, trade and culture. All mutual wins for both Syria and Turkey.

Ordinary Syrians might also be happy because in the Syrian collective mind, Turkey is a natural ally that sided with the enemy for a while, and now it seems to siding with its natural ally again.

As I see it, after the violation of Turkish airspace on Sep 6 (a huge insult to the Turkish pride), Israel should not expect any good news from Turkey for a while (not even on the water and economic levels).

October 19th, 2007, 9:56 pm


why-discuss said:

Anyone knows what is the scale of Israel-Turkey industrial, military and commercial agreements?

October 19th, 2007, 10:22 pm


SimoHurtta said:

On a more serious note, Turkey’s strategic direction is NATO, the EU and the west in general – not Syria.

Actually Turkeys strategic direction is east. Many of the STAN states population belong mostly to Turkish tribes. Turkey is a real hidden aerial superpower, much more potential and powerful as it seems outside.

Naturally Turkey would like to join EU (like Israel), but it seems that the major powers of EU, France and Germany, do not support that. And Turkey seems not to waste time to getting in a club where it is not wanted. Instead it opens fast relations towards east and north. And that is certainly making Israel and USA nervous.

Anyone knows what is the scale of Israel-Turkey industrial, military and commercial agreements?

In 2006 Israel exported to Turkey 801 M$ and imported 1271 M$. Both in export and import Turkey is number 10 in Israel’s trade partners. Israel exports to Turkey chemicals (341 M$), machinery, electrical equipment (139 M$) and base metals (104 M$). Import is base metals (356 M$), machinery, electrical equipment (170 M$) and textiles (169 M$).

One of the biggest plans which Israel desperately needs (Turkey not so much) is the plan of water, oil, electricity pipe from Turkey to Israel. Israel has no connection to other countries electrical grid and no oil or gas pipelines. Also Israel’s water supply is in a real danger if Palestine is created and Golan is lost.

Considering the huge potential of Arab markets and the oil and gas line business Turkey can do with Iran and the stan states, Israel can offer very little for Turkey.

October 19th, 2007, 11:22 pm


MSK said:


All the articles, incl. the IHT one you cited and the AP story that Josh put up in a later post, are based on two sources:

– The Al-Safir article about some “agreement” incl. on US land/air/naval bases and/or training grounds in Lebanon

– The Edelmann interview where he said that the US would like to increase its cooperation with the Leb army and help them shift their military doctrine

The Al-Safir article is just “mu’ammarah kabiirah”. Do feel free to come here to Beirut & talk to all sorts of people about that. The Edelmann interview reflects the desire of the US vis-a-vis Lebanon. None of this is new. And it was immediately rejected by both the Leb government and the Leb army command, i.e. General Suleiman.

Now to your other points:

– As Syria is almost completely isolated from the rest of the Arab world, it is in no position to provide Turkey with any “Arab legitimacy” for anything whatsoever, be it on the Kurdish issue or anything else. All it can do is to give “Syrian” legitimacy, whatever that means. It’s a mirror to the Iran-Iraq War – or would you say that back then Syria gave “Arab legitimacy” to Iran?

– As for recognition of Northern Cyprus … I have no idea where you got that idea from, but again – even IF Syria were to decide to be the only other country in the whole wide world except Turkey to recognize Northern Cyprus, that wouldn’t do anything whatsoever to bolster the Turkish position. It would, however, get the Greeks really pissed at Syria & not exactly help Syria to get any more EU cooperation. What good would that do for Syria?



October 20th, 2007, 9:04 am


idaf said:


The “Arab legitimacy” and Northern Cyprus recognition that Syria can provide Turkey with are for inside politics in Turkey. Inside the Turkish parliament and in the Turkish media, it will boost support for any government decisions on the Arab world and will make the Turkish government’s life easier if it is argued that “an Arab country agrees with us”. In a democracy such as Turkey this is valuable. It would also be used by the Turkish government for external PR against the Americans or EU if needed (“we are not alone on this”), similar to how Bush uses the term the “coalition of the willing” (which includes for example 1 man from Finland and several countries like the “Federated States of Micronesia”).

Syria is not getting much from the EU, Greece or Cyprus. On the other hand giving Turkey this Northern Cyprus gesture (becoming the only country to build relations with Northern Cyprus) will be highly appreciated by Turkey.

This is something else that only Syria can help Turkey with..
وساطة سورية بين تركيا وارمينيا

قال الرئيس بشار الاسد إن “دمشق تسعى للقيام بوساطة سياسية بين تركيا وأرمينيا،بحكم العلاقة الجيدة التي تربطها بهما، مشيرا أن هذه الوساطة بدأت قبل صدور قرار لجنة الشؤون الخارجية في مجلس النواب الاميركي الذي يصف ما حدث للأرمن بأنه “إبادة جماعية”.

October 20th, 2007, 10:30 am


Observer said:

Jamal: My information regarding the economics is certainly not complete; and as a liberatarian when it comes to the role of goverment in the affairs of the people ( I believe that the goverment first priority is to be the referree among people ) I do concede that a “directed economy” is almost always less desirable than a free economy. Nevertheless, Iran has the ability to prøduce a whole array of manufactured goods, has developed persian based software for its computers, has been able to produce spare parts for its imported hardware, is establishing a commodities exchange ( remember that oil is traded in two exchanges only London and New York ); and finally and most importantly, the Iranian regime is willing and eager to learn from its mistakes.
For our esteemed commentators from the “chosen people of Yahweh” on this post, it is truly amazing how self centered their mind set is. Bashar and his wife visit Turkey; Putin lands in Teheran; Iran and China are contructing each a huge power plant in Iraq; and the new Kurdistan is risking destabilization anew and all they can think about is Israel. I urge them to read the fables of La Fontaine specifically the story of the frog that was so impressed by the sight of a magnificent bull that it started to engorge on water and ended up exploding: that is were vanity is taking it.

October 20th, 2007, 4:15 pm


Syria » Blog Archives » NYT: Iraq President Assails Syria’s Support for Turkish Cross ... said:

[…] Turkey and LebanonIt seems that Turkey has decided to form a full alliance with Syria. The press conference today between the 2 presidents clearly displays some sort of strong alliance. Turkey has finally figured out that Syria is its “strategic depth” … […]

October 22nd, 2007, 6:22 am


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