27 March 2014 — Moon of Alabama
On March 23 AlQaeda affiliated groups crossed the border from Turkey and attacked the western Syrian province of Latakia. They seized the Kasab border crossing and the Armenian town of Kessab. People there fled as the Jihadist removed the crosses from the Armenian churches and replaced them with their black flag. The Jihadist groups were given artillery support and anti-air cover from Turkey. A Syrian jet on a bombing run against the Jihadists was shot down by the Turkish air-force.
The Jihadist managed to capture several hill sides before being stopped by reinforcing Syrian forces. After the plane was shot down Syrian anti-air radars “painted” any Turkish flight coming near its border ready to shot them down. Heavy artillery is used against the intruders and they are said to have high casualties. Their wounded get transported to the Turkish border and find help in Turkish hospitals. The Jihadist campaign is clearly in trouble and it may only take a few days until they will have to give up and retreat.
The Turkish prime minister Erdogan and his foreign minister Davutoglu have further plans. They allege that the Tomb of Süleyman Shah, a small place in Syria 25 kilometres from the Turkish border but under Turkish sovereignty, is threatened by Jihadists. They say that Turkish troops are ready to go to protect it. This clearly is a threat of invasion under some attack on radio Gleiwitz reasoning. Today leaked tape recordings of two phone calls (in Turkish, UPDATE: English transcript of first part) between Davutoglu, the chief of the Turkish intelligence MIT Hakan Fidan and others, seem to confirm that this is indeed the plot. According to a preliminary translations by Firat Gunay (for which I can not vouch):
- Fidan offers Davutoglu to send men into Syria to fire missiles on Turkey.
- After Davutoglu rejects that, Fidan offers to bomb the tomb of Süleyman Shah.
- Talk about the needs of the Jihadists which is more about ammunition than guns.
- Fidan states that they have delivered 2,000 truckloads of weapons to the insurgents.
- Davutoglu says Kerry had asked if the Turks would invade Syria and had pressed for it to do so.
- Davutoglu also says they have plans for a no-fly zone over Syria and have delivered such plans to NATO.
- Davutoglu assures Fidan that Erdogan has agreed to all the plans.
- Fidan says things do not go well for the insurgents and that Turkey has send a general to help them.
Shortly after the calls were leaked on Youtube Turkey blocked local Internet access to Youtube. It is now also available on Vimeo and elsewhere. The tape release, only the latest in a larger series, came after Turkish police raided a holding company related to the religious Gülen movement, an earlier ally of Erdogan which has become his fiercest enemy. A TV station related to Gülen was also taken down.
There are local elections on March 30 and Erdogan’s AK Party may lose the mayor seats in Istanbul and/or Ankara. Erdogan seems to have [lost] not only his voice but also his mind. He is using a strategy of demonetization against everything – Twitter, Gülen, Israel, Syria, whatever – to play to his large base. This base though may no longer be big enough for electoral victories.
The Obama administration is also planting stories of new “worries” about Jihadists attacks on “western” interests from north or east Syria. Such an “attack” could easily be orchestrated and then used to “justify” “western” intervention and a renewed perspective of a no-fly zone over Syria.
The northern attack on Syria comes at a time where a long announced attack in the south fails to materialize. There have been sightings of new Chines anti-tank weapons in the south but there is no sign of a coordinated campaign. Indeed there are doubts that the announced Southern Front exists at all. The talk about it may have been a diversion for the attack in the north.
Turkey and the United States should be careful with their dreams of invading Syria. Two can play such games and there are Russian troops ready on the eastern Ukrainian border. A move in one place could result in a counter move elsewhere.