This 2-part presentation consists of two short articles by two different writers, Finian Cunningham and Dan Glazebrook, giving their separate viewpoints on the current conflict between Russia and Turkey which threatens to escalate into a major confrontation between the world powers. Both writers seem to be in agreement that Turkey’s reckless action in shooting down a Russian plane over the Syria-Turkey border was an act of war that must have had the secret backing of the United States.
RUSSIA TO TURKEY : ‘STOP SUPPORTING TERRORISM!’
PART 1 : By Finian Cunningham
Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian fighter jet this week was likely aimed at a bigger political target – to deal a blow to the proposal of a grand anti-terror coalition between the West and Russia for fighting the Islamic State extremist network in Syria.
Such a coalition might seem reasonable, even desirable, to most people. But it is profoundly unacceptable, tacitly, to Washington because it would further expose the criminal nature of the Western-sponsored regime-change operation in Syria.
Washington and its allies do not want Russia to participate in an effective military coalition that would accelerate the destruction of the mercenary terror army that the Western powers have covertly invested in. In that regard, French President Francois Hollande seems to have momentarily lost the devious plot by proposing such an alliance with Russia.
On the face of it, Turkey’s attack on a Russian Su-24 appears to be a reckless act of aggression. And Washington has denied any involvement in the incident. But it seems significant that the shoot-down came on the same day that the American White House rebuffed France’s proposal of forming a military coalition with Russia against the Islamic State terror group in Syria.
Ankara appears to be hiding behind pedantic arguments about «rules of engagement» and defence of its territory. Turkey claims that the Russian Su-24 entered its airspace for «17 seconds». However, its bombastic protestations and scampering under the skirts of NATO betray a dirty deed.
The subsequent murder by Syrian Turkmen militants of one of the two Russian pilots as they parachuted to the ground – a gross war crime – has only compounded the anger felt by Moscow. The second pilot was reportedly rescued by Russian and Syrian special forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin described the attack as a «stab in the back» and said that there would be «grave consequences» for Turkey, without specifying what those consequences might be. In principle, Russia has the right under international law to take military action against the perpetrator.
Already it can be gleaned that Ankara’s actions are incriminating. The Turk authorities claim that the Russian jet entered Turkey’s territory from across the border with Syria, and that their F-16 fighter jets fired an air-to-air missile following repeated audio warnings to the Russian aircrew.
But how screwy is that rationale, even if we accept it at face value? Why should Turkey react in such an aggressive manner towards Russia over a fleeting error, if that’s what it was? There seems, rather, to have been a premeditated urge to act in this excessive way by the Turks.
Russia’s defence ministry contradicts the Turk version, saying that its warplane was always within Syrian territory and did not pose any security threat. The fact that the Russian jet and the ejected pilots came down in Syrian territory indicates that Moscow’s account of the incident is closer to the truth.
Moscow’s contention of how its fighter jet was brought down is also corroborated by the macabre way in which one of parachuted pilots was killed by militants inside Syria’s border, as reported by the New York Times.
Moscow said that the fighter jet was «targeting Islamic State militants in the mountains of northern Latakia [in northwest Syria]». Turkey, the United States and other Western governments have been claiming that Russian air operations are mostly focused on striking «moderate rebels». If that latter claim were true then why was one of the two Russian pilots summarily executed by the militants on the ground if those militants were «moderate rebels»? Why were the militants seen in video footage, which they released, gloating over the bloodied corpse?
Ankara, Washington and their NATO allies can’t have it both ways. If Russia is targeting moderate rebels – assuming that such a category exists – then why was the Russian pilot butchered in such a barbaric manner akin to the Islamic State or one of its related extremist brigades?
In any case, let’s not get waylaid by engaging in semantical shell games. Turkey, as with its other NATO partners and the Gulf Arab states, has been fully sponsoring terrorist proxies in Syria under different names. The so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) and its notional moderates are just a convenient propaganda device that has allowed the US and its allies to sponsor terrorist mercenaries in a criminal, covert war for regime change in Syria.
President Putin, in his angry condemnation of Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian Su-24, avoided diplomatic niceties and bluntly labelled Ankara as a «terrorist accomplice». The Russian leader also accused Turkey of aiding terrorists in Syria by conducting oil trade with Islamic State militants who have commandeered Syria’s oil fields over the past two years.
At the G20 summit earlier this month, held in Turkey’s Antalya, President Putin presented a dossier on financial links to jihadist terror groups. He said those links showed that «certain G20 members were implicated in the financing of terrorism». That was taken to indicate Turkey and Saudi Arabia, among others.
At the G20 summit, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chimed in with other world leaders in denouncing IS (also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) in light of the massacre in the French capital, Paris, where some 130 people were killed in gun and bomb attacks on November 13.
The rank hypocrisy of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other G20 members in condemning «terrorism» did not escape Russia. The loss of 224 lives, mostly Russian tourists, onboard an airliner that was blown out of the skies above the Sinai desert on October 31 from a terrorist bomb has only served to harden Moscow’s resolve to eradicate the terrorists in Syria and to expose the state sponsors behind these groups.
Russia’s aerial blitzkrieg against anti-government mercenaries in Syria – whether they go by the name of IS, FSA, al Nusra, Islamic Front, or some other cover name – has, since September 30, wiped out thousands of foreign-backed insurgents. Together with Syrian Arab Army ground advances, this Russian air campaign is liquidating assets that the US and its allies have invested billions of dollars in for regime change in Damascus.
It is only a matter of time before the rhetorical shell game conducted by the terrorist sponsors comes unstuck. Washington, Ankara and the rest can’t just sit back and watch Russia destroying its proxy mercenary army. Their cynical exhortations to Russia to avoid striking «moderate rebels» are having no restraining effect, simply because there are no moderate rebels worth talking of Russia is zeroing in on the West’s terrorist proxy army, and rightly so no-holds are barred.
In this context, the proposal of forming a military coalition with Russia is simply anathema, from the Western regime-change viewpoint. The idea had to be blown out of the sky. The shoot-down of the Russian jet by Turkey seems a symbolic repudiation of the proposed military alliance with Moscow.
The Russian noose on the terror networks and, more importantly, their state financiers is tightening. The tension is becoming unbearable, and Ankara obviously kicked out with the shooting down of the Russian fighter jet this week.
Washington reportedly denied any involvement in the incident, even though it has a plentiful military presence at the Incirlik NATO base in southwest Turkey, including F-15 air combat planes and sophisticated radar and communication systems.
It seems unlikely that Turkey would have acted singlehandedly in such a provocative way and in such a precarious situation where NATO and Russia were already on tenterhooks over the close proximity of their respective warplanes plying the skies over Syria.
Moreover, as President Putin pointed out, Russia and the US had recently signed an agreement ostensibly to avoid deconfliction of air forces in Syria. Turkey, as a fellow NATO member, would have been fully apprised of that agreement. So, how did such a deleterious lapse occur?
US President Barack Obama quickly upheld Turkey’s right to defend its territory, without having ascertained the facts surrounding the shoot-down.
It is significant that following the incident Turkey immediately called for an emergency NATO summit to confer with the 27 other members of the US-led military alliance. If the shoot-down was simply a random act carried out in the spur of the moment, then why didn’t Ankara get in touch with Moscow to iron things out and express condolences? Instead, as Putin noted, the Turks ran off to NATO without even as much as a call to Moscow.
The deadly attack against Russian forces occurred on the same day that French President Francois Hollande met with Barack Obama in Washington to discuss closer military cooperation with Russia in the supposed fight against Islamic State terrorism in Syria.
Obama politely, but firmly, rebuffed the French leader’s proposal for a grand coalition that would include Russia. Hollande was waved off with an earful of platitudes. And Turkey’s shooting down of the Russian fighter jet – only hours before Hollande was received at the White House – appears to have been timed in order to emphatically put paid to any idea of working more closely with Moscow to combat terrorism in Syria.
As noted above that rejection of Russia’s formidable anti-terror firepower is based on deep, covert and necessarily unspoken strategic reasons, owing to the real, imperative US-led objective in Syria. Namely regime-change and the deployment of terrorist networks for achieving that criminal objective.
PART 2 : By Dan Glazebrook
Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet shows the utter desperation currently sweeping through the regime change camp as Russia closes in on the death squads in Syria.
Flight: This map shows the route of the Russian jet (red line), based on data released by the Turkish army, including where it allegedly violated Turkish airspace, and the area in the Syria where it crashed.
LD: The Russians claim they received no warnings from Turkey over their alleged incursion into Turkish air space. The Turks claim they sent ten warnings in five minutes. It seems to me the Turks have to be lying. Firstly, the Russian plane crashed four kilometers within Syrian territory. Secondly and more importantly, the neck of Turkish territory into which the Russian plane is alleged to have briefly strayed (see map above) is so narrow that the Russian plane would have shot through in 17 seconds. Hence it would have been impossible for ten warnings from Turkey to have been issued to the Russian pilots in such a short time span.
At 9:30am, a Russian SU-24 jet was shot down by a Turkish fighter plane. The pilots were then allegedly killed by Syrian Turkmen anti-government militias, with the body of one being paraded on camera in a video that was immediately posted to YouTube. Turkey claimed the jet had encroached on Turkish airspace, but Russia maintains the plane was shot down inside Syrian territory, 4km from the Turkish border. Rather than calling Russia to defuse any tension arising from the attack, Turkey then immediately called an emergency NATO meeting to ramp it up – “as if we shot down their plane,” Putin commented, “and not they ours”.
To make sense of this apparently senseless provocation, it is necessary to cut through the multiple layers of obfuscation which surround Western narratives around Syria and Islamic State militants.
The reality is that the forces essentially line up today just as they did at the outbreak of this crisis in 2011: The West, Turkey and the gulf monarchies sponsor an array of death squads bent on bringing down the Syrian government, while Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria (obviously) and Hezbollah resist this project. The rise of ISIS has not fundamentally changed this underlying dynamic. Indeed, the next-to-useless impact of the West’s year-long phony war against ISIS – alongside its relentless funneling of weaponry to militias with an, at best, ambiguous relationship with Al-Qaeda and ISIS – has demonstrated that the Syrian state (or “Assad” to use the West’s puerile personalization) remains the ultimate target of the West’s Syria policy.
As Obama himself put it, the goal is not to eliminate ISIS, but rather to “contain” them – that is, keep them focused on weakening Syria and Iraq, and not US allies like Jordan, Turkey or the US’s favored Kurdish factions. In civil wars, there are only ever really two sides. And in the Syrian civil war, NATO remains on the same side as ISIS. In this sense, Putin was entirely correct when he commented on the Turkish attack that it had been a “stab in the back, carried out by the accomplices of terrorists” and asked:“do they want to make NATO serve ISIS?” Or, we could expand, is it that ISIS was created to serve NATO?
Russia’s direct entry into the Syrian conflict two months ago, however, has stirred the ‘regime change’ camp. Belying all their ‘anti-ISIS’ rhetoric, the US and Britain were openly worried that Russia might actually be putting up an effective fight against the group and restoring governmental authority to the ungoverned spaces in which it thrives. Immediately, the West began warning of ‘blowback’ against Russia, and ramped up advanced arms shipments to the insurgency. Within a month, a Russian passenger plane was blown up, with ISIS claiming responsibility and British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond calling the attack a “warning shot”.
It was a “shot” alright, aimed not only at Russia, but also at her allies; the downing of the plane on Egyptian soil was a deliberate act of economic war against the Egyptian tourism industry, a punishment for Egypt’s support for Russia and Syria and its choking off of fighters to Syria since Abdel Fattah Sisi came to power. Then, two weeks later, came the attack on Paris. White supremacist niceties prevented Hammond calling this one a “warning shot” as well, but that is precisely what it was, this time directed at those within the regime change/ anti-Russia camp who were showing signs of ‘wobbling’. Francois Hollande suggested back in January that sanctions on Russia should be lifted as soon as possible, and more recently the nation showed a willingness to cooperate with Russia militarily over Syria: a ‘red line’ for France’s ‘Atlantic partners’.
Nevertheless, the net continues to close on the West’s death squad project in Syria. From the start the key to ISIS success has been, firstly, the porous Syria-Turkey border, through which Turkey has allowed a free flow of fighters and weapons back and forth for the past four years, and secondly, the massive amounts of finance ISIS receives both from oil sales and from donors in countries prepared to turn a blind eye to terror financing. In recent weeks, all of this has been threatened by the Russian-led alliance (of which France is increasingly willing to be a part).
The past week has seen a large scale Syrian ground offensive, supported with Russian air cover, in precisely the Syrian-Turkish border region which is the death squads’ lifeline: a move which prompted the Turkish foreign ministry to warn of “serious consequences” if the Russian airstrikes continued. Simultaneously, Russia embarked on a major campaign against ISIS’ reportedly 1,000-strong oil tanker fleet which is so crucial to the group’s financial success.
As the Institute for the Study of War reported, “Russian military chief of staff Col. Gen. Andrey Kartapolov announced on November 18 that ‘Russian warplanes are now flying on a free hunt’ against ISIS-operated oil tanker trucks traveling back and forth from Syria and Iraq, claiming that Russian strikes had destroyed over 500 ISIS-operated oil trucks in the past ‘several days.’” This massive dent in the group’s oil transporting capacity even shamed the US into belatedly and somewhat half-heartedly launching similar attacks of their own. The smashing of ISIS’ oil industry will not only be a blow to the entire death squad project, but will directly affect Turkey, widely thought to be involved in the transportation of ISIS-produced oil, and even Erdogan’s family itself, as it is the company run by his son Bilal that is believed to be running the illicit trade.
Finally, France yesterday announced a crackdown on ISIS’ financiers, and demanded that other countries do the same. French Finance Minister Michel Sapin implied that the report to the G20 on the issue last month was a whitewash, and demanded that the international Financial Action Task Force be much more explicit in its report to the next G20 finance meeting in February about which countries are lax in terms of terror financing. The move is very likely to expose not only Turkey and Saudi Arabia but also, given HSBC’s links to Al Qaeda, the City of London.
Indeed, as the Politico website noted, Sapin specifically said “that considering the reputation of the City of London, he would be ‘vigilant’ on the UK’s implementation of EU-agreed measures to clamp down on money laundering and exchange financial information on shady transactions or individuals”. The reactions to his demands that implementation of tougher EU regulations be moved forward will also be instructive (in another move exposing the total lack of urgency given to the West’s supposed ‘war on ISIS’, they are currently not due to be implemented for another two years).
And on top of all this, the UN Security Council finally passed a resolution authorizing ‘all necessary measures’ to be used against ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Syria, effectively granting UN approval to Russia’s intervention. As Pepe Escobar has pointed out, French support for the resolution rendered it politically impossible for the US or UK to use their veto – although US ambassador Samantha Power, an extreme Russophobe and ‘regime changer’, registered her disapproval by failing to turn up for the vote and sending a junior official along instead.
In other words, on all sides the net is closing in on the West’s death squad project in Syria. Turkey’s actions today have merely demonstrated, again, the impotent rage of those who have thrown in their chips with a disastrous and bloody attempt to remake the Middle East. Syria is indeed becoming the Stalingrad of the regime changers – the rock on which the imperial folly of the West and it’s regional imitators may finally be broken.