Monday, August 06, 2012

Turkey, Iraq and Syria

As Sri Lanka's Nation notes, tensions continue between Baghdad and Ankara. Last week, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited the KRG and, on Thursday, visited Kirkuk which outraged thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki who couldn't stop flapping his gums in yet another attempt by Nouri to show the world just how insane and unstable he is. AFP reports, "Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday defended his foreign minister's visit to the disputed northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk last week, which infuriated Baghdad."  While in Kirkuk, Davutoglu met with Turkmen and Rudaw publishes the speech he gave in full.  Excerpt:

“After 75 years I am come to Kirkuk as the first Turkish Foreign Minister,” Davutoglu said. “You waited for us too long, but I promise you won’t wait for us that long in the future.”
The Turkmen crowd responded to the foreign minister’s words by cheering, “Welcome Davutolgu,”
“Before I came here I listened to the great master [singer and poet] Abdulwahid Guzelioglu,” Davutoglu continued as he repeated a line from one of his poems. “The mountain learned perseverance from me. Iron chains couldn’t tie me down, but Kirkuk tied me down.”
Hearing the poem, the crowd cheered, “Kirkuk is Turkmen and will remain Turkmen.”
“Kirkuk is as important to us as it is to a Kirkuki singer,” said the foreign minister.
“Iraq is a close friend of Turkey,” he said. “Iraqi people are our brothers: Turkmen, Assyrians, Kurds and Arabs. All Iraqis are dearer to us than life. Whenever a tragedy or a sad news happens in Iraq our heart breaks. When a terrorist attack takes place in Kirkuk and our Kirkuki brothers come to harm, believe me that our hearts are set on a fire that nothing can put it out.
If you live in happiness and peace, we too in Turkey will be happy. If a thorn pricks your fingers, we in Turkey will feel your pain."

Reuters notes an overnight bombing targeting the oil pipeline between Iraq's Kirkuk and Turkey's Ceyhan has "knocked out flows and repairs are expected to take up to 10 days."  Whether they were or were not involved, it is assumed the PKK is responsible for the attack.  The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."  Anadolu Agency reports that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey, has rejected Nouri's calls that cross border raids into Iraq stop and quotes Erdogan declaring, "It should be known that as long as the region remains a source of threat for Turkey we will continue staging operations wherever it is needed.  That was exactly the terms we had agreed upon with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who personally told me that he lacked the power to deal with [terrorist PKK organization] in Iraq's north." 

AFP reports that Sunday saw a raid by the PKK across the Iraq border, into Turkey on a military post which resulted in the deaths of 2 village guards, 14 PKK rebels and 6 Turkish soldiers and another five civilians, one village guard and fifteen Turkish soldiers were left injured.  RTT News adds, "Turkish military jets are currently pursuing the retreating militants and bombing their escape routes." As for the residents of the area of the attack?  Dogan News Agency reports that the people were first forced out of their homes by a 5.3-magnitude earthquake at 11:57 pm.  As they fled the area, they encountered the PKK attack forcing them to flee back towards their home and "Red Crescent teams were sent into the quake zone to assess the damage and the needs of quake victims."

Meanwhile RT notes, "Syrian state TV host Mohammed al-Saeed has been executed, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.  A militant Islamist group has claimed responsibility for the killing." This would be the Syrian 'rebels.' Those groups Kelly McEvers is always sobbing about on NPR while NPR pretends to be objective.  As Ava and I explained yesterday, Senator John Kerry has asked more questions of who the 'rebels' in Syria are than some in the media:

Chair John Kerry:  Well there's been as you know in the meeting in Paris and other meetings, Istanbul and elsewhere, very significant efforts to flush out who is the opposition?  I mean, do you know exactly who you would provide weapons too?

Andrew Tabler: Absolutely not.  But --

Chair John Kerry:  Don't you think we need to know that?  

Andrew Tabler: Absolutely. 

In the midst of the turmoil, millions try to live their lives in Syria and that's not helped when the 'rebels' start targeting the media.  NPR reports an attack on a television building has left at least three people dead today (that was on their hourly news update so the link just goes to NPR).  Yesterday, Anthony Khun (NPR's All Things Considered -- link is audio and text) reported on a group of Iranians the 'rebel' Free Syrian Army was holding and claiming they were some sort of military operatives (while the government in Tehran insists that they are pilgrims).  Shashank Joshi (Telegraph of London) observes, "Foreign powers did not invent Syrias uprising, but they are certainly helping it along. In recent months Turks, Arabs and Americans have embraced the rebel cause, pumping in a thickening flow of weapons and helping to discipline the once ragtag insurgents into a force that grows more potent by the day. " 

Though Syria housed over a million Iraqi refugees from 2006 on, allowing for schooling and doing so without any aid from the Iraqi government -- though, of course, Nouri al-Maliki did announce that the Iraqi government would reimburse Syria and Jordan for the refugees, it never happened.  When the turmoil in Syria began resulting in refugees, Nouri announced that they could not come to Iraq.  Iraq, he said, couldn't handle the influx.  As the world's jaw hung open in disbelief and disbelief began to turn to condemnation, Nouri suddenly announced a policy switch.  Syrian refugees would be welcomed in!  But the living conditions he's provided for them have been less than hospitable -- and it's telling that he's placed then in the Sunni province of Anbar.  Omar Alsaleh (Al Jazeera -- link is text and video) reports on what awaits Syrian refugees who seek asylum in Iraq:

Omar Alsaleh:  They fled the violence in Syria, expecting a warm welcome in Iraq.  These refugees are now safe from the bombardments and the killings but they feel locked up.

Syrian refugee:  We became refugees and our country was destroyed because we demanded freedom.  But our freedom is now confisicated.  It would have been better if we had stayed in Syria.  We demand that the Iraqi government and NGOs take us out of here or takes us back to our country.  Let us die there.

Omar Alsaleh:  More than 3,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in al Kahim over the last two weeks.  They've been given shelter in 12 shcol. Aid groups, tribal shieks and residents of Anbar Province offer them food, some cash and basic needs.  But they want to be allowed to move.

That's the Baghdad-controlled Iraq.  The semi-autonomous KRG has been accepting refugees long before Nouri.  And Martin Kobler, UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, has visited the camps last month.  Hoda Abdel-Hamid (Al Jazeera -- link is text and video) reports today from a refugee camp in the Kurdistan Regional Government:

Hoda Abdel-Hamid:  Rejin Hassan crossed into northern Iraq about a month ago.  She lived all of her life in Damascus but she was never considered a Syrian national.

Rejin Hassan:  We were considered foreigners but they have given us nationality so we are Syrian.  But I wish we had our region.

Hoda Abdel-Hamid:  So far Kurds have not joined the armed conflict.  They are Syrian's largest ethnic minority.  But many of them were never granted citizenship.  It's only after the uprising started that the government gave the nationality to an estimated 200,000 Kurds.  Ahmed and his family were stateless all their lives. They now hold Syrian i.d.s, but for Ahmed it's too little too late.

Ahmed:  This is a ploy by the [Bashar al-Assad] regime. They try to calm the situation down making sure we don't join the uprising. It's a game they're playing.  But in the end they will lose.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Dirty Debbie"  went up last night.   On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed include the work the National Lawyers Guild will be doing at the upcoming RNC and DNC conventions where demonstrations are expected to take place and the hosts note some recent passings including journalist (Time magazine, the New York Times, etc.), author (The Great Fear in Latin America) and professor (City University of New York) John Gerassi who early on interviwed Che Guevara -- as well as noting Gerassi's passing, they play an interview they had recently done with him.

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