This is the second of our twin articles offering different interpretations of the current political situation in Turkey and Syria. The first article, by Eric Zuesse, was published earlier today and can be found here.
In mid-July, President Erdogan pointed his finger at the CIA, accusing US intelligence of having supported a failed coup directed against his government. Turkish officials pointed to a deterioration of US-Turkey relations following Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gülen, the alleged architect of the failed coup.
Erdogan’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag was categorical:
If the US does not deliver [Gulen], they will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist”
Public opinion was led to believe that relations with the US had not only deteriorated, but that Erdogan had vowed to restore “an axis of friendship” with Moscow, including “cooperation in the defence sector”. This was a hoax.
Turkey’s Invasion of Syria
The implementation of the Turkish invasion required routine consultations with the US and NATO, coordination of military logistics, intelligence, communications systems, coordination of ground and air operations, etc. To be effectively carried out these military endeavors required a cohesive and “friendly” US-Turkey relationship.
We are not dealing with a piecemeal military initiative. Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield could not have taken place without the active support of the Pentagon, which ultimately calls the shots in the war on Syria.
The likely scenario is that from mid July to mid-August US, NATO and Turkish officials were actively involved in planning the next stage of the war on Syria: an (illegal) invasion led by Turkish ground-forces, backed by the US and NATO.
The Failed Coup Sets the Stage for a Ground Invasion
- 1. Massive purges within the armed forces and government were implemented in the immediate wake of the July coup. They had been planned well in advance:
Arrested immediately were 2,839 army personnel with 2,745 Judges and Prosecutors ordered detained… In under a week 60,000 people had been fired or detained and 2,300 institutions closed…” Felicity Arbuthnot, Global Research, August 2 2016
- 2.The coup was intended to fail. Erdogan had advanced knowledge of the coup and so did Washington. There was no conspiracy directed by the CIA against Erdogan. Quite the opposite, the failed coup was in all likelihood engineered by the CIA in liaison with Erdogan. It was intended to consolidate and reinforce the Erdogan regime as well as rally the Turkish people behind their president and his military agenda “in the name of democracy”.
- 3. The purges within the Armed Forces were intended to get rid of members of the military hierarchy who were opposed to an invasion of Syria. Did the CIA assist Erdogan in establishing the lists of military officers, judges and senior government officials to be arrested or fired? The Turkish media was also targeted, many of which were closed down.
- 4. Erdogan used the July 15 coup to accuse Washington of supporting the Gulen movement while seeking a fake rapprochement with Moscow. He flew to St Petersburg on August 9, for a behind closed doors meeting with President Putin. In all likelihood, the scenario of a rift between Ankara and Washington coupled with the “my friend Putin” narrative had been approved by the Obama administration. It was part of a carefully designed intelligence ploy coupled with media disinformation. President Erdogan, vowed according to Western media reports: “to restore an ‘axis of friendship’ between Ankara and Moscow amid a growing rift between Turkey and the West.”
- 5. While “mending the fence” with Russia, Turkey’s military and intelligence apparatus was involved in planning the invasion of Northern Syria in liaison with Washington and NATO headquarters in Brussels. The underlying objective is to ultimately confront and weaken Syria’s military allies: Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.
In St Petersburg in the immediate wake of the July 15 failed coup, Erdogan thanked his “dear friend” Vladimir Putin.
The fact Mr Putin called me the next day after the coup attempt was a very strong psychological factor,” he said at a joint press conference. “The axis of friendship between Moscow and Ankara will be restored,” Telegraph, August 7, 2016
Did Putin know that the failed coup, covertly supported by the CIA, was meant to fail? One suspects that Russian intelligence was aware of the ploy and was also informed regarding Turkey’s invasion plans:
Your visit today, despite a very difficult situation regarding domestic politics, indicates that we all want to restart dialogue and restore relations between Russia and Turkey,” Mr Putin said as the pair met in the city’s Constantine Palace.
…Mr Putin on Tuesday said Russia would “step by step” lift sanctions, … Mr Erdogan in turn promised to back major Russian energy projects in Turkey, including the construction of the country’s first nuclear power station and a gas pipeline to Europe.
He also said the two countries would step up “cooperation in the defence sector,” but did not elaborate.
The Putin-Erdogan Saint Petersburg meeting was interpreted by the media as a rapprochement with Moscow in response to the alleged involvement of the CIA in the failed coup.
According to the Washington Post, an improvised about-turn in US-NATO-Turkey relations had occurred despite Erdogan’s “friendly” encounter with Putin:
NATO went out of its way Wednesday to insist that Turkey — whose president this week visited Moscow and promised a new level of cooperation with the man he repeatedly called his “dear friend,” Russian President Vladimir Putin — remains a “valued ally” whose alliance membership “is not in question.”
In a statement posted on its website, NATO said it was responding to “speculative press reports regarding NATO’s stance regarding the failed coup in Turkey and Turkey’s NATO membership.”
A nonsensical report. In actuality, the Pentagon, NATO, the Turkish High Command and Israel are in permanent liaison. Israel is a de facto member of NATO, it has a comprehensive bilateral military and intelligence relationship with Turkey.
With the invasion of the border area of Northern Syria and the influx of Turkish tanks and armoured vehicles, the Turkey-Russia relationship is in crisis. And that is the ultimate objective of US foreign policy.
Russian forces are acting on behalf of their Syrian ally.
How will the Kremlin and Russia’s High Command respond to what constitutes a US-Turkey-NATO ground invasion of Syria?
How will they confront Turkish and allied forces? One assumes that Russia will avoid direct military confrontation.
After the US, Turkey is NATO’s heavy weight.
So far the Turkish op is limited to a small border territory. Nonetheless it constitutes and important landmark in the evolution of the Syria war: invasion of a sovereign country in derogation of international law. Washington’s endgame remains “regime change” in Damascus.
Is the military initiative a preamble for a larger military undertaking on the part of Turkey supported by US-NATO? In many regards, Turkey is acting as a US proxy:
Turkey is moving into Syria not just with its own military, but with thousands of “rebel opposition groups” including US-backed FSA brigades allied with AlQaeda/Nusra/Sham and the child head-chopping al-Zinki who are reported to form the vanguard. Syrian territory is outright being turned over to them by the Turkish military, simply exchanging control from one group of terrorist jihadis (ISIS) to others who are more media acceptable and more direct proxies of the Erdogan regime, the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
That said, ISIS has not resisted the Turkish advance at all – simply “melting away” (or exchanging one set of uniforms for another?).
– Moon of Alabama
Do the SAA Syrian forces have the military capabilities of confronting Turkish ground forces without Russian and Iranian support? How will Tehran react to the influx of Turkish forces? Will it come to the rescue of its Syrian ally?
An “incident” could be used as a pretext to justify a broader NATO-led war. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty (NATO’s founding document) states under the doctrine of “collective security” that an attack against one member state of the Atlantic Alliance (e.g. Turkey) is an attack against all members states of the Atlantic Alliance.
Dangerous crossroads. With the incursion of Turkish ground forces, military confrontation with Syria’s allies, namely Iran and Russia, is a distinct possibility which could lead to a process of escalation beyond Syria’s borders.
The Erdogan-Jo Biden Meeting
From Washington’s perspective, this ground invasion sets the stage for a possible annexation of part of Northern Syria by Turkey. It also opens the door for the deployment of US-NATO ground force operations directed against central and southern Syria.
Erdogan met up with Vice President Biden on August 23, following the influx of Turkish tanks into Northern Syria. The invasion is carefully coordinated with the US which provided extensive air force protection. There is no rift between Ankara and Washington, quite the opposite:
It [is] difficult to believe that Turkey truly suspected the US of an attempted decapitation of the nation’s senior leadership in a violent, abortive coup just last month, only to be conducting joint operations with the US inside Syria with US military forces still based within Turkish territory.
What is much more likely is that the coup was staged to feign a US-Turkish fallout, draw in Russia and allow Turkey to make sweeping purges of any elements within the Turkish armed forces that might oppose a cross-border foray into Syria, a foray that is now unfolding. The New Atlas, Global Research, August 24, 2016
Media reports convey the illusion that the Biden-Erdogan meetings were called to discuss the extradition of the alleged architect of the failed coup Gulen. This was a smokescreen. Jo Biden who had also met Erdogan back in January, gave the green-light on behalf of Washington for a joint US-Turkey-NATO military incursion into Syria.
The Kurdish Question
The invasion is not directed against Daesh (ISIS) which is protected by Ankara, it is geared towards fighting SAA forces as well as Kurdish YPG forces, which are “officially” supported by the US. The US supported ISIS-Daesh and Al Qaeda affiliated rebels are working hand in give with the Turkish invaders.
The invasion is also part of a longstanding project by Turkey of creating a “safe-haven” within Northern Syria (see map above) which can be used to extend US-NATO-Turkey military operations Southwards into Syria’s heartland.
Washington has warned its Kurdish allies not to confront Turkish forces:
Biden said the Kurds, who Turkey claims intend to establish a separate state along a border corridor in conjunction with Turkey’s own Kurdish population, “cannot, will not, and under no circumstances will get American support if they do not keep” what he said was a commitment to return to the east.
Washington will no doubt eventually clash with Ankara with regard to Turkey’s project of territorial expansion in Northern Syria. Washington’s longstanding objective is to create a Kurdish State in Northern Syria, within the framework of a territorial breakup of both Syria and Iraq. (see US National War Academy map below). In a bitter irony, this “New Middle East” project also consists in annexing part of Turkey to the proposed Kurdish State. In other words, Turkey’s New Ottoman objective of territorial expansion encroaches upon Washington’s design to fragment Iraq, Syria, Iran as well as Turkey. In other words, America’s ultimate imperial design is to weaken Turkey as a regional power.
The Pentagon has defined a military roadmap: “The road to Tehran goes through Damascus.” The invasion of Northern Syria creates conditions for a broader war.
Moreover, on the US agenda is a longstanding objective, namely to wage war on Iran. In this regard, US military strategy largely consists in creating conditions for America’s staunchest allies (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel) to confront Iran, and act indirectly on behalf of US interests. i.e. “do the job for us”.
MAP OF THE NEW MIDDLE EAST
NOTE: The above map was prepared by Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters. It was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006, Peters is a retired colonel of the U.S. National War Academy. (Map Copyright Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters 2006). Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers. This map, as well as other similar maps, has most probably been used at the National War Academy as well as in military planning circles.
The failed coup was indeed supported by the CIA, but the failure was coordinated with President Erdogan. It was an intelligence op which was meant to fail and mislead public opinion.