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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 10:02 am 
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Turkey and Saudi can't be very happy now. The Saudis are "threatening" to send troops into Syria.


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Obama’s Disastrous Betrayal of the Syrian Rebels


Foreign Policy

How the White House is handing victory to Bashar al-Assad, Russia, and Iran.

BY EMILE HOKAYEM FEBRUARY 5, 2016

What a difference a year makes in Syria. And the introduction of massive Russian airpower.

Last February, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and its Shiite auxiliaries mounted a large-scale attempt to encircle Aleppo, the northern city divided between regime and rebels since 2012 and battered by the dictator’s barrel bombs. Islamist and non-Islamist mainstream rebels — to the surprise of those who have derided their performance, let alone their existence — repelled the offensive at the time. What followed was a string of rebel advances across the country, which weakened Assad so much that they triggered Moscow’s direct intervention in September, in concert with an Iranian surge of forces, to secure his survival.

Fast-forward a year. After a slow start — and despitewishful Western assessments that Moscow could not sustain a meaningful military effort abroad — the Russian campaign is finally delivering results for the Assad regime. This week, Russian airpower allowed Assad and his allied paramilitary forces to finally cut off the narrow, rebel-held “Azaz corridor” that links the Turkish border to the city of Aleppo. The city’s full encirclement is now a distinct possibility, with regime troops and Shiite fighters moving from the south, the west, and the north. Should the rebel-held parts of the city ultimately fall, it will be a dramatic victory for Assad and the greatest setback to the rebellion since the start of the uprising in 2011.

In parallel, Russia has put Syria’s neighbors on notice of the new rules of the game. Jordan was spooked into downgrading its help for the Southern Front, the main non-Islamist alliance in the south of the country, which has so far prevented extremist presence along its border. Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian military aircraft that crossed its airspace in November backfired: Moscow vengefully directed its firepower on Turkey’s rebel friends across Idlib and Aleppo provinces. Moscow also courted Syria’s Kurds, who found a new partner to play off the United States in their complex relations with Washington. And Russia has agreed to a temporary accommodation of Israel’s interests in southern Syria.

Inside Syria, and despite the polite wishes of Secretary of State John Kerry, the overwhelming majority of Russian strikes have hit non-Islamic State (IS) fighters. Indeed, Moscow and the Syrian regime are content to see the United States bear the lion’s share of the effort against the jihadi monster in the east, instead concentrating on mowing through the mainstream rebellion in western Syria. Their ultimate objective is to force the world to make an unconscionable choice between Assad and IS.

The regime is everywhere on the march. Early on, the rebels mounted a vigorous resistance, but the much-touted increase in anti-tank weaponry could only delay their losses as their weapons storages, command posts and fall-back positions were being pounded. Around Damascus, the unrelenting Russian pounding has bloodied rebel-held neighborhoods; in December, the strikes killed Zahran Alloush, the commander of the main Islamist militia there. In the south, Russia has fully backed the regime’s offensive in the region of Daraa, possibly debilitating the Southern Front. Rebel groups in Hama and Homs provinces have faced a vicious pounding that has largely neutralized them. Further north, a combination of Assad troops, Iranian Shiite militias, and Russian firepower dislodged the powerful Islamist rebel coalition Jaish Al-Fatah from Latakia province.

But it is the gains around Aleppo that represent the direst threat to the rebellion. One perverse consequence of cutting the Azaz corridor is that it plays into the hands of the al Qaeda-affiliate Jabhat Al-Nusra, since weapons supplies from Turkey would have to go through Idlib, where the jihadist movement is powerful. Idlib may well become the regime’s next target. The now-plausible rebel collapse in the Aleppo region could also send thousands of fighters dejected by their apparent abandonment into the arms of Nusra or IS.

The encirclement of Aleppo would also create a humanitarian disaster of such magnitude that it would eclipse the horrific sieges of Madaya and other stricken regions that have received the world’s (short-lived) attention. Tens of thousands of Aleppo residents are already fleeing toward Kilis, the Turkish town that sits across the border from Azaz. The humanitarian crisis, lest anyone still had any doubt, is a deliberate regime and Russian strategy to clear important areas of problematic residents — while paralyzing rebels, neighboring countries, Western states, and the United Nations.

Assad all along pursued a strategy of gradual escalation and desensitization that, sadly, worked well. Syrians already compare the international outcry and response to the IS’ siege of Kobane in 2014 to the world’s indifference to the current tragedy.

To complicate the situation even more, the regime’s advances could allow the Kurdish-dominated, American-favored Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to conquer the area currently held by the Free Syrian Army and Islamist militias between the Turkish border and the new regime front line north of the Shiite towns of Nubl and Zahra. This would pit the SDF against IS on two fronts: from the west, if the Kurds of Afrin canton seize Tal Rifaat, Azaz and surrounding areas, and from the east, where the YPG is toying with the idea of crossing the Euphrates River. An IS defeat there would seal the border with Turkey, meeting an important American objective.

The prospect of further Kurdish expansion has already alarmed Turkey. Over the summer, Ankara was hoping to establish a safe zone in this very area. It pressured Jabhat al-Nusra to withdraw and anointed its allies in Syria, including the prominent Islamist group Ahrar al-Sham, as its enforcers. True to its record of calculated dithering, President Barack Obama’s administration let the Turkish proposal hang until it could no longer be implemented. Turkey faces now an agonizing dilemma: watch and do nothing as a storm gathers on its border, or mount a direct intervention into Syria that would inevitably inflame its own Kurdish problem and pit it against both IS and an array of Assad-allied forces, including Russia.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia, the rebellion’s main supporters, are now bereft of options. No amount of weaponry is likely to change the balance of power. The introduction of anti-aircraft missiles was once a viable response against Assad’s air force, but neither country — suspecting that the United States is essentially quiescent to Moscow’s approach — is willing to escalate against President Vladimir Putin without cover.

Ironically, this momentous change in battlefield dynamics is occurring just as U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura yet again pushes a diplomatic track in Geneva. But the developments on the ground threaten to derail the dapper diplomat’s peace scheme. Fairly or not, de Mistura is tainted by the fact that the United Nations is discredited in the eyes of many Syrians for theproblematic entanglements of its Damascus humanitarian arm with the regime. Despite U.N. resolutions, international assistance still does not reach those who need it most; in fact, aid has become yet another instrument of Assad’s warfare. Neither Kerry nor de Mistura are willing to seriously pressure Russia and Assad for fear of jeopardizing the stillborn Geneva talks.

Seemingly unfazed by this controversy, de Mistura’s top-down approach relies this time on an apparent U.S.-Russian convergence. At the heart of this exercise is Washington’s ever-lasting hope that Russian frustration with Assad would somehow translate into a willingness to push him out. However, whether Putin likes his Syrian counterpart has always been immaterial. The Russian president certainly has reservations about Assad, but judging by the conduct of his forces in Chechnya and now in Syria, these are about performance– not humanitarian principles or Assad’s legitimacy. For the time being, Moscow understands that without Assad, there is no regime in Damascus that can legitimize its intervention.

Ever since 2011, the United States has hidden behind the hope of a Russian shift and closed its eyes to Putin’s mischief to avoid the hard choices on Syria. When the Russian onslaught started, U.S. officials like Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken predicted a quagmire to justify Washington’s passivity. If Russia’s intervention was doomed to failure, after all, the United States was not on the hook to act.

Russia, however, has been not only been able to increase the tempo of its military operations, but also to justify the mounting cost. And contrary to some pundits, whohailed the Russian intervention as the best chance to check the expansion of IS, Washington knows all too well that the result of the Russian campaign is thestrengthening of the jihadist group in central Syria in the short term. This is a price Washington seems willing to pay for the sake of keeping the Geneva process alive.

The bankruptcy of U.S. policy goes deeper. The United States has already conceded key points about Assad’s future — concessions that Russia and the regime have been quick to pocket, while giving nothing in return. In the lead-up to and during the first days of the Geneva talks, it became clear that the United States is putting a lot more pressure on the opposition than it does on Russia, let alone Assad. Just as Russia escalates politically and militarily, the Obama administration is cynically de-escalating, and asking its allies to do so as well. This is weakening rebel groups that rely on supply networks that the U.S. oversees: In the south, the United States has demanded a decrease in weapons deliveries to the Southern Front, while in the north, the Turkey-based operations room is reportedly dormant.

The result is a widespread and understandable feeling of betrayal in the rebellion, whose U.S.-friendly elements are increasingly losing face within opposition circles. This could have the ironic effect of fragmenting the rebellion — after years of Western governments bemoaning the divisions between these very same groups.

It’s understandable for the United States to bank on a political process and urge the Syrian opposition to join this dialogue in good faith. But to do so while exposing the rebellion to the joint Assad-Russia-Iran onslaught and without contingency planning is simply nefarious. Washington seems oblivious to the simple truth that diplomacy has a cost, as does its failure — probably because this cost would carried by the rebellion, for which the United States has little respect or care anyway, and would be inherited by Obama’s successor.

The conditions are in place for a disastrous collapse of the Geneva talks — now delayed until late February — and a painful, bloody year in Syria. All actors understand that Obama, who has resisted any serious engagement in the country, is unlikely to change course now. And they all assume, probably rightly, that he is more interested in the appearance of a process than in spending any political capital over it. As a result, all the parties with a stake in Syria’s future are eyeing 2017, trying to position themselves for the new White House occupant. This guarantees brinksmanship, escalation, and more misery. 2016 is shaping up as the year during which Assad will lock in significant political and military gains.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 11:10 am 
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Guess I'll piggy back... :mrgreen:

Russian hands-off warning to US, Saudis, Turks amid crucial Aleppo battle
DEBKAfile Special Report February 6, 2016, 5:59 PM (IDT)
Tags: Aleppo, Russian forces in Syria, US-Russia, John Kerry, Saudi Arabia,


Russian S-400 anti-air missile in Syria





The five-year Syrian civil war, faces its most critical moment. Saturday, Feb. 6, a combined force of Syrian army and Hizballah troops and an Iraqi Shiite militia under Iranian officers, were led by Russian air and Spetsnaz (special forces) officers into pressing forward to encircle 35,000 rebels trapped in Aleppo, the country’s largest city. As they tightened the siege, 400,000 Syrian civilians were also trapped and forced to bear heavy Russian air bombardment and savage artillery fire from the ground forces closing in on the city.
Rebel supply routes were cut off Thursday and Friday when Syrian and Hizballah forces captured the Azaz Corridor connecting Aleppo and all of the northern province of Idlib to the Turkish border.

Tens of thousands of refugees fleeing from the beleaguered town are massing at Bab al-Salama, the last Turkish border crossing to be closed against them. This is the largest Syrian refugee exodus since the start of the civil war.
The rebels under siege are painfully short of weaponry for fighting off the massive, combined offensive, debkafile’s military sources report. Their only remaining recourse is to surrender or be ground into submission as the conquering force knocks over their positions and takes over street after street.
Once the combined forces fighting with Bashar Assad’s army take Aleppo and northern Syria, the opposition will have suffered its heaviest defeat since the war began. The rebels groups’ capacity to continue fighting the regime will be gravely diminished.

Their desperate plight - and the fresh surge of Syrian refugees in unmanageable numbers – cut short the conference in Geneva for a settlement of the Syrian conflict, before it got underway – and prompted reactions from sponsors of rebel groups.
In Riyadh, Brig, Gen. Ahmed Asiri, adviser to Saudi Defense Minister Muhammed Bin Salman, announced Friday that Saudi Arabia is ready “to participate in any ground operations that the international coalition launches against ISIS.” This offer was taken as a veiled response to the SOS from the rebel stronghold in Aleppo.

In Washington, State Department circles, in a briefing to US media, said the time had come to establish a no-fly security zone in northern Syria. They said: “Once a zone were established we do not believe Russia would challenge the stronger US and NATO forces, particularly if they were operating mainly from Turkey.”

The next day, Friday, Moscow came back with a sharp response: Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said: “Russian air defense systems enable early detection of threats to Russian aircraft flying combat missions over Syria and provide adequate measures to ensure flight safety.”
This was a reminder of the sophisticated air defense S-400 and S-300 missile systems Russia installed at its Syrian air base after the Turkish air force downed a Russian warplane in November.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem put it more crudely: “Any foreign troops entering Syria would return home in wooden coffins.”
He advised armed opposition groups fighting the government offensive in the area to lay down their weapons because, he said, “government advances signal that the five-year-old Syria war is nearing its end.”

Saturday, US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia to implement a ceasefire in Syria, saying its bombing campaign was killing women and children in large numbers and "has to stop." He told reporters on his return from a trip to Europe: "Russia has indicated to me very directly they are prepared to do a ceasefire,” adding "The Iranians confirmed in London just a day and a half ago they will support a ceasefire now."
debkafile’s military sources have seen no sign of any ceasefire or even a slowdown in the Russian-led Syrian-Iranian Aleppo offensive.

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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 5:34 pm 
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Kerry has also complained that the Russians will strike the same target again after a period of time to catch the survivors/rescuers.

Basically its a "How dare they not have dozens of lawyers in DC validate a target while the plane is circling overhead and that you must target only the one individual and if there is anyone living in the next block you must abort because they might be scratched" kind of thing.


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PostPosted: Sun Feb 07, 2016 5:59 pm 
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Do the Saudis have the spare troops to invade Syria?

I'm not sure, but if Kerry stakes out a position, doing the exact opposite generally means a better outcome?

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:45 am 
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Things are looking bad for the Kurds and the Saudis. A bit better for Turkey, Assad and Putin. Not much mention of Israels outcome.

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Four decades of trade agreements with the gulf states prompt their spiritual mentorship to be questioned in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Syrian war, oil prices and the Paris attacks 
By STEVE AUSTIN for OIL-PRICE.NET, 2015/12/02

In our last article we predicted that thousands of hardened ISIS fighters, blending among refugees, would march into Europe undetected. We also advised our readers that this would spread distrust between European powers and borders would go back up in an attempt to stem the invasion, at the cost of slowing down European economies. We were right on all counts.

On November 13th 2015, ISIS terrorists committed multiple suicide attacks in Paris, which formed the deadliest terrorist atrocity on French soil since WW2. They caused France to close borders and declare a state of emergency.

There is a strange connection between these tragic events and the politics of petroleum. On the one hand, Saudi-funded fundamentalism has, within a few decades, balkanized Europe into a net supplier of jihadi fighters. On the other hand, a proxy war in Syria over a gas pipeline created the refugee crisis. These are both dire issues which few governments dare to face effectively, yet these issues will shape our world for centuries to come.

France's Terrorist Hotbeds

As of November 2015 both the French and German governments estimate that between 5,000 and 6,000 Western Europeans jihadis have joined the ranks of ISIS in Syria. Of these, almost half came from France and are mostly second or third-generation immigrants of Algerian descent. This makes France the largest supplier of Western jihadis. According to France's DGSE secret service 250 have returned so far, some giving TV and radio interviews about their experiences in ISIS. This media blitz occurs while they await mild prison sentences and still collect welfare benefits. Meanwhile, more than 300 candidates are considering joining ISIS and this figure is climbing.

Although this "Salafist" radicalization is sometimes abusively portrayed as recent, it is a multi-generational trend spanning nearly four decades and is a consequence of the European powers' oil policies.

Most European countries have no oil reserves. Shortly after the 1973 oil crisis they attempted to tie long-term partnerships with the Gulf States. As a result, oil from Saudi Arabia and Qatar still flows reliably into Europe in exchange for currency, weapons technology, and a few Saudi-funded mosques. For example, around that time Belgium signed a 99-year lease with Saudi Arabia to build the Great Mosque of Brussels, just a short distance from the Molenbeek suburbs, today considered Europe's most volatile terror hotbed. In Spain, Madrid is home to the largest Mosque in Europe, also built by Saudi Arabia. Saudi-trained conservative imams took the helms of these mosques and indoctrinated generations of followers with wahhabi and salafist rhetoric. They called on the Muslims of Europe to split away from the native European society they deem incompatible and seize power. Hence political Islam had set foot in Europe.

Despite protests and warnings from conservatives, leftist European politicians not only tolerated this rhetoric, they even embraced it. They interpret it as a sort of "class struggle" in phase with their own ideology. As years went by and the Muslim population increased, Europe's socialist parties began to court the Islamic vote more assiduously under the guise of multiculturalism and tolerance. It paid off for some leftist parties who got elected repeatedly, buying votes at the cost of massive low-cost housing projects and welfare benefits targeted preferentially towards citizens of foreign descent.

Unfortunately, these policies created immense low-cost housing neighborhoods, which soon tuned into a state within a state, following the salafist rethoric of self-segregation. Today some of these no-go zones are Islamist enclaves operating under near-Shariah law with no police presence. They are disconnected from the rest of France's society, but nonetheless welcome free housing and medical services, utilities and generous welfare benefits in exchange for votes. The pattern is similar in Belgium, Holland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Germany. Why change something that works?

The perpetrators of the Paris terror attacks were all raised and radicalized in France and Belgium. However, France's socialist President Hollande was quick to point the finger elsewhere at ISIS and Syria, drawing the media's attention away from his government's accountability. This allowed Hollande to bolster state expenditure and deficits despite EU budget rules, while pledging to welcome 30,000 new Syrian refugees - new voters for the 2017 elections paid for by taxpayers. In reality, France's home-grown terrorism problem is the result of decades of complacency by Hollande's own party towards Saudi-funded political Islam - an unreasonable price for crude oil and weapons export.

France's commercial and cultural exchanges with Saudi Arabia are supervised by a dedicated workgroup within the French government (Groupe d'amitie France-Arabie Saoudite) headed by politician Olivier Dassault, heir to aerospace conglomerate Dassault Defense Systems. In July 2015, France signed a record $12 billion contract with Saudi Arabia to sell helicopters, build two nuclear reactors and export advanced weapons systems to the Kingdom - though any "cultural" part in the agreement flowing back from the Kingdom was not disclosed to the public. Given the Kingdom's recent offer to build 200 new mosques for Syrian refugees in Germany, the $12 billion cheque to France most certainly came with strings attached, the consequences of which the average Joe - or Pierre as it may be - will endure. From the looks of it, the hands of France's ruling class are tied and it is unlikely they will stand up to Saudi Arabia.

Police raids following the attacks uncovered heavy weaponry in known hotbeds, a tell-tale sign that regular law enforcement cannot keep track of terrorist activities in normal times. The Paris attacks went undetected by the DGSE secret services simply because the number of aspiring jihadis has reached a critical mass which now exceeds the service's capacity. It takes on average 20 agents to monitor a suspected terrorist, more if he is aware of being monitored. The 5,000-strong DGSE has repeatedly warned that it cannot effectively monitor homegrown jihadis because of their sheer numbers. Unfortunately, going forward, Paris-style attacks are the new normal.

Syria's Civil War

As we explained in our last article, the Syrian Civil War stems from a disagreement between the Saudis and Russia over the route for a new gas pipeline ducting Gulf gas to the lucrative European markets. Russia, whose only Mediterranean base is located in Tartus, Syria, supports Assad's initiative of a gas pipeline from Iran through Iraq and Syria (the Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline). But Saudi Arabia's hardline Sunni Muslims wants to overthrow Syria's Assad, who is a Shia Muslim, for religious reasons. They want to run a 100 per cent Sunni-controlled pipeline from Qatar through Syria and Turkey (the Qatar-Turkey pipeline), into Europe. As a result of this disagreement a proxy war is taking place in Syria between the aforementioned powers. Meanwhile displaced Syrian refugees are flooding into Europe with jihadis in their midst.


Originally, Europeans were strongly in favor of deposing Assad for so-called "humanitarian reasons". Their humanitarian concerns for Assad's repressive regime veil the truth - Europe resents depending on Russia for 40 per cent of its gas. Russian President Putin annexed Crimea and maintained a belligerent stance, pushing Europe to favor the pipeline proposal of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi plan to duct natural gas all the way to Europe through Syria and Turkey came with a catch - Assad would have to be toppled. The US supported the initiative as Russia's only Mediterranean naval base would disappear with Assad. Thus, the Western world had itself a new plan that would bring peace and prosperity to the region. That is after the "initial shakeout" necessary to oust Assad.

The "initial shakeout" didn't go as planned. Russia-backed Assad proved far more resilient than anticipated. But more importantly, western-backed Islamic militias committed such barbaric acts of terror they even made Assad, and Russia, look good in comparison. An emboldened ISIS gradually took over several of the region's oil fields to fund its operations to the tune of $50 million per month by smuggling oil into Turkey. The routes and means were well established during the previous oil embargo on Iraq and so are the financial networks that profit from it in Turkey. Today, crude oil illegally smuggled by ISIS into Turkey accounts for a fairly significant 3.5 per cent of Turkey's total oil imports. Turkey's NATO allies are starting to question her true allegiance and motivation to fight ISIS, as does Turkey's downing of a Russian jet while it was tracking an oil convoy headed for Turkey. Turkey's allegiance has become so questionable that Texas governor Rick Perry suggested that Turkey be dismissed from NATO.

Turkish Delight

Syria's history particularly draws Turkey's attention. For centuries most of the Middle East, including the area now known as Syria, was part of the Ottoman Empire. That Empire was ruled from the Turkish city of Istanbul by a dynasty of autocratic Sultans, called the Ottoman family. As well as ruling over most of the Middle East, the Sultan held the hereditary position of Caliph. This was the leadership of all the Sunni Muslims in the world - a Muslim Pope.

The Ottoman Empire was an ally of the German Empire during the First World War. When they lost that war, the British and French governments took their revenge by splitting off all of the empire's provinces and creating colonies for themselves. Those colonies evolved into independent countries and today they are Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. The rump of the empire was left independent and in turmoil. In 1922 the army overthrew the Ottoman sultan and declared a republic, changing the Empire's name to Turkey.

The leaders of ISIS want to form their own homeland by uniting Iraq, Syria and the Lebanon into one country. They will then spread out over all the former territories of the Ottoman Empire to recreate it. They also want to recreate the Caliphate. Although their aims are an homage to the Ottomans, they don't intend to invite the family back. They like the romantic notion of days gone by, specifically because those enchanting eras give glamour to dictatorship and repression. ISIS wants to wind back to the good old days when whoever was in charge could have anyone they wanted whipped or killed without the meddling of politics, courts, rights or democracy. They want the luxury of autocracy for themselves, not for some hapless descendant of the last Sultan.

All of this plays well for Turkey. ISIS admires their northern neighbors and they don't include that country in their plans. The ISIS vision of an empire is the Ottoman Empire, without Turkey.

Trade Not Aid

Although the Turks are members of NATO and allies of the United States, they have their own agenda, which often flies contrary to the policies of America. For one thing, they have a troublesome separatist movement in the Kurds.

Kurdistan has never been an independent country and today it covers an area of Western Iran, Northern Iraq and Syria, and about a third of Turkey's territory. The overriding obsession of every Turkish government is to prevent the loss of that area which would occur with the creation of Kurdistan. Rather than give the Kurds concessions and try to befriend them, the Turks choose to repress, imprison and cull the Kurds by any means possible.

America, France and Britain love the Kurds. One of the justifications for toppling Sadam Hussein in Iraq was his mass murder of the Kurds through gassing. The Kurds fought fiercely alongside the Western armies and the allies rewarded them by giving them total autonomy in their homeland in Northern Iraq, right along the border with Turkey which hosts significant crude oil and natural gas proven reserves in Iraq. This infuriated the Turkish government, as an oil-rich Kurdistan could rise militarily and stand up to Turkey.

US trained and armed Kurds are the only force that has had any luck in defeating ISIS in Northern Syria. The Kurds held two area of borderland and were successfully driving ISIS back into the interior of the country. ISIS had one stretch of the border area with Turkey and used that as a checkpoint to trade with their much-admired neighbor.

ISIS's early successes in Northern Iraq saw them seize oil fields and refineries. Rather than destroy these monuments to Western occupation, they took over them and cranked up production. However, as they are designated as a terrorist organization, they don't have access to oil trading markets to sell their black gold. So, who on earth would buy oil from terrorists? Turkey.

The befriending of ISIS has worked very well for Turkey. They get a cheap source of oil, pouring $50 million a month into ISIS's coffers. On top of that, they know that one of the main ways their terrorist friends will use that money is to buy back weaponry to kill as many Kurdish independence fighters as possible.

Things were going great for Turkey, until the American-backed and armed Kurds started to gear up for their final push to squeeze ISIS out of the border area, thus uniting Kurdish control of the entire southern border of Turkey. The Turkish government declared that it had enough of the terrible atrocities occurring in Syria. They joined the war in the name of freedom, and bombed the Kurds to smithereens. This helped ISIS regain control of Northern Syria, and kept the cheap oil flowing to Turkey. America did nothing.

Brothers in Arms

Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the two biggest Sunni countries in the Middle East. Turkey lies to the north of the region, and Saudi Arabia lies to the south, deep in the Arabian Peninsula. Industrialized Turkey produces weapons while Saudi Arabia buys technology and arms from the West and both are smuggling some of those weapons to various Syrian rebel groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliates and unofficially ISIS. However, the economies of the two countries are very different.

As a non-oil producing industrialized nation depending on Russia for 60% of its gas imports, Turkey's economy is strengthened by falling oil price, and having a plentiful supply of under-priced contraband oil on its southern border is just making life a lot easier for the people of Turkey. Saudi Arabia doesn't have a value-added economy but rely on oil production. Thefall in oil prices, which are now approaching $40 per barrel due to Saudi non-respect of OPEC quotas, doesn't bode well for the Kingdom's finances.

Historically Saudi Arabia was formed by a desert prince, who allied himself with religious fundamentalist warriors, the wahhabis, and took over the peninsula. This formed the Kingdom named after that prince.

However, there was a price to pay for this alliance and Saud had to enforce a strict religious code, lest the wahhabis turned on him. Saud had to remain pious, lest the Wahabis turned on him. That "pious" religious code means banning music, repressing women, strict observance of the hours of prayer, and lots and lots of public beheadings. King Saud lived to a ripe old age and since his death, the rule of the Kingdom has passed sideways along the family tree of Saud's sons. The present king of Saudi Arabia is a son of the first monarch.

Since then Saudi rulers have mostly remained pious - with the exception of a some of the 15,000 Saudi princes and their tabloid-worthy lifestyles once abroad - in appearance at least. While at home, royals have used oil revenue to pacify their restless subjects with lavish spending. The most aggressive subjects are "encouraged" to go see the world rather than upset the status-quo within the Kingdom. It is no coincidence that Osama Bin Laden, a Saudi, had to take his revolution to Afghanistan and today, scores of Saudi youths follow in his footsteps by joining ISIS.

But, building Mosques and filling planes with fighters for Allah costs money. Although Saudi oil costs as little as $10 per barrel to pull out of the ground, the government needs a breakeven price of $95 per barrel in order to keep funding trouble abroad while keeping peace at home. Given today's low oil prices, Saudi Arabia is spending $10 billion a month of its savings to keep the country afloat. According to the IMF, it will take 5 years of their current levels of deficit to send the country bankrupt.

Slippery Slope

Five years of deficit funding seems manageable. Five years is a long time, anything can happen. However, five years may be a generous estimate. Countries find financing gets harder when they get down towards the bottom of the cookie jar. Without large reserves, international lenders get jumpy and interest rates rise sharply. The country will start to face inflation and the government policy of subsidizing the prices of essential goods will become even more expensive, thus escalating the depletion of reserves. It may only take three years to drive the Kingdom bankrupt if the government doesn't reign in their spending and a costly ongoing war with Yemen doesn't help.

If the Saudi Arabian government takes the necessary action to cut their budget and reduce the annual deficit, they may not last five years: cutting military spending against Yemen, heavily armed by Iran, is not an option. Cutting entitlements used to pacify ultra-conservative wahhabis would be suicidal. So transitioning Saudi Arabia into more of a value-added, sustainable economy seems the best option, however this meets cultural opposition.

As of 2015, a mere 4 per cent of Saudis work in the private sector. As a whole, the Saudi private sector is 87 per cent staffed by foreigner workers. Since the oil price crashed, the Saudi government has attempted to force the private sector to hire more Saudi nationals to reduce the state cost of unemployment. But as one CEO puts it: it is "a serious battle trying to get those that they hire to actually do anything". Working for a living is simply not culturally accepted in the Islamic state. This cultural attitude explains why astonishingly, Saudi Arabia is a net importer of gasoline: it imports 25 per cent of its gas and 20 per cent of its diesel. In other words Saudis produce oil easily (by inviting in foreign companies with their own highly trained staff) but they don't "add value" by refining it. Refining crude oil may seem like such a low-hanging fruit for us westerners, yet the effort involved puts is out of reach of Saudis.

To make things worse, the army of the Kingdom is mired in an unwinnable war in the country's southern neighbor, Yemen. Granted, the Saudi army is one of the best equipped in the world. The government's back-scratching with Western powers resulted in the Saudis buying an enormous amount of weaponry to keep the GDP of their allies buoyant. However this stands in contrast with the effectiveness of its service members. Commanders traditionally hold their positions because they are Saudi Royals, not necessarily because they are competent in military matters. On the ground, as many members of the western military who part-took in joint training with the Saudi armed forces have anecdotally reported, Saudi discipline is mediocre, to put it mildly. And as everyone knows, the plural of anecdote is data. Should ISIS head south and Iran-backed Yemen head north, most Saudi soldiers may simply run for the hills.

My Enemy's Enemy

The Saudi obsession with getting at Syria has drawn the attention of Western media to the Kingdom's private funding of terrorists and lost it friends. By contrast, Iran seems more reasonable and easier to deal with. The standoff between the US and Russia, picking sides in the Syrian conflict is melting away, as the US and its allies abandon Saudi Arabia and realize that shoring up President Assad is preferable to absorbing millions of Muslims in Europe.

Moreover, Europe needs a new source of gas to prevent Vladimir Putin throttling the newly liberated countries of Eastern Europe through his gas blackmail policy. However, through all of the planning and lobbying for permission to build one or other pipeline through Syria, there is one obvious outcome that everyone seems to have overlooked. Why not build both and let them compete?

The Sunni/Shia religious war presages further blackmail down the line. If only the Sunni pipeline gets built, the Sunni Muslim governments of the Middle East will be able to blackmail Europe to do its bidding by turning off supplies. If only the Shia pipeline gets built, Iran can blackmail Europe, in fact you can bet that Vladimir Putin has already organized a coordinated "pricing" strategy with the Iranians.

It is in Europe's interests to have three piped gas suppliers - Russia, Qatar, and Iran. That way, no single force can manipulate Europe's energy needs for political gain. Although Russia and Iran might team up, the prospects of the Sunnis in the south forming a cartel with the other two suppliers are slim. The United States has little direct commercial or political interest in any of the possible outcomes of the pipeline projects, aside for pleasing "allies" Saudi Arabia and Turkey. It is just committed to keeping Europe free, and so a powerful Putin incurs military expense for America.

Plan B

The Saudis don't have a Plan B, but Iran does, and it is implementing it now. They are playing their capitulation into a diplomatic triumph and winning friends away from Saudi Arabia. As the West and Russia cease to undermine Syria's efforts to survive, those exported wahhabi insurgents will return home to Saudi Arabia with an axe to grind and a surplus of arms.

The Iranian gas pipeline will be built through Syria. With the trouble in Syria over, the Americans will take less interest in the Kurds. Turkey can go back to quietly stamping on the prospects of an independent Kurdistan, and would probably be willing to see the final leg of the gas pipeline pass through their territory, thus removing the need for an underwater segment and reducing its cost while upping their geostrategic significance.

With Saudi Arabia in turmoil, its ability to project project influence on the world will erode itself. Without its oil output, oil prices will rise again. Without its exported petrodollars, ISIS will melt away. Turkey may grow to become the chief Sunni Muslim nation in the world - a position it held when it was the seat of the Caliphate


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2016 9:56 pm 
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Apparently Erdogan didn't find his threats to work too much on Putin, so he went on to threaten easier targets. Like the EU bureaucrats. With the demographic weapon.
https://www.yahoo.com/news/erdogan-thre ... html?nhp=1
Quote:
Ankara (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday threatened to send the millions of refugees in Turkey to European Union (EU) member states, as NATO agreed to deploy ships to the Aegean Sea to ease the migrant crisis.

In a speech in Ankara, Erdogan stepped up his denunciations of Western policy in the refugee crisis, confirming he had threatened EU leaders at a summit meeting in November that Turkey could say "goodbye" to the refugees.

But in a separate move, NATO agreed to send a naval group "without delay" to the Aegean to crack down on the people smugglers who have helped hundreds of thousands of migrants cross to EU territory in the last year.

Alarm is growing in EU capitals that thousands of migrants are still crossing the Aegean daily from Turkey after over a million made the perilous journey last year.

But Turkey, already home to some three million refugees, is also under EU and UN pressure to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing regime advances in the Aleppo region.

Erdogan sought to turn the tables on the EU by saying Turkey had every right to turf the refugees out of the country if it so wished.

"We do not have the word 'idiot' written on our foreheads. We will be patient but we will do what we have to. Don't think that the planes and the buses are there for nothing," Erdogan said.

Greek website euro2day.gr had earlier this week reported that at the G20 summit in Antalya in November Erdogan had angrily threatened to EU Commission president Jean Claude Juncker that Turkey could send the refugees to Europe.

The website had quoted Erdogan as telling Juncker: "We can open the doors to Greece and Bulgaria anytime and put the refugees on buses."

"I am proud of what I said. We have defended the rights of Turkey and the refugees. And we told them (the Europeans): 'Sorry, we will open the doors and say 'goodbye' to the migrants'," Erdogan said in his speech Thursday.

- 'Shame on you!' -

He also lashed out at UN calls on Turkey to take in tens of thousands of Syrian refugees from Aleppo region massed on the border with Turkey, saying the United Nations has spent less than half a billion dollars in the crisis.

"Shame on you! Shame on you!" said Erdogan, saying the UN should be telling states to take in refugees from Turkey.

Turkey is already hosting 2.5 million refugees from Syria's civil war and hundreds of thousands from Iraq and is increasingly bitter it has been left to shoulder the burden.

Erdogan said Turkey had already spent some nine billion dollars on hosting the refugees since Syria's almost half decade civil war began.

The EU has agreed to give Turkey three billion euros in financial aid for the refugees but the funds have yet to be handed to Turkey, two-and-a-half months after they were agreed.

"The three billion euros is not in our budget, where has it gone?" asked Erdogan. "It's for refugees!"


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