Saturday, March 5

Erdogan raises the stakes in his not-to-covert war against the European Union

Turkey's President could have waited until after Monday's emergency summit with EU leaders to take over Zaman. That he didn't wait suggests he isn't only interested in extorting more billions from the Europeans on the matter of the refugee/migrant crisis. Whatever his precise motivation for the timing of the Zaman takover, he knows that the union's leadership can no longer avoid confronting the fact that he's working with Islamic State to undermine the European Union.   

The fact is now open knowledge -- so open that I don't think the U.S. military is bothering anymore to give Erdogan cover by denying it; it has its own cover to worry about. Last night Gregory Copley of Defense & Foreign Affairs gave John Batchelor's radio audience an earful

Yeah, the American public has unwittingly been paying to help Ankara and other players, including their own government, arm not only al Qaeda but also Islamic State. Copley recounted to Batchelor that when he asked senior Washington officials and military brass why they were helping avowed enemies of Americans, the reply was the chirping of crickets. 

Copley also mentioned that Erdogan's regime is using Islamic State personnel to facilitate the massive trafficking of desperate people into EU countries. So the EU public, for its part, was not only dragooned into helping arm Islamic State but also to help Erdogan undermine the Schengen Agreement -- the linchpin of the European Union. 

The agreement is now hanging by a frayed thread, which is the overriding reason for the emergency summit. See the Reuters report I linked to above for details.   

This suggests Erdogan has gone beyond trying to unseat Syria's Al-Assad and grab part of Iraq; it's beyond even his war against the Kurds. He is acting very directly against the European Union -- and clearly betting that the NATO leadership won't stop him. 

As to the EU leadership, he has them over a barrel. From the Reuters report:
"Extremely worried about latest developments on Zaman newspaper which jeopardizes progress made by Turkey in other areas," European Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Twitter.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz tweeted the takeover was "yet another blow to press freedom" and said he and Davutoglu would discuss it on Monday.
Critics have accused the European Union of turning a blind eye to Turkey's rights record because it needs Ankara's help curbing huge flows of refugees and migrants.
Turkey, which borders Syria, Iraq and Iran, will join EU leaders in Brussels at a crisis summit on Monday. Davutoglu said the "positive agenda will now be occupied and stained" with the issue of press freedom.
Since when does a diplomatic dust-up get aired on Twitter? Since officialdom would rather not haul a country's envoy on the carpet, although the EC did manage to scrape together an official response: 
"Any country, and in particular those negotiating EU accession, needs to guarantee fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, and due judicial process, in line with the European Convention on Human Rights," the European Commission said in a statement.
By all accounts Erdogan doesn't think Turkey has a chance to make it into the EU, which he's dismissively referred to as "the Christian club," at least not while he's in power, and he intends to use any means necessary to stay in power. So the threat from the EC is hot air.  

Next move? We'll find out next week, after the summit. In the meantime the following report from RT, which is only the latest on the same topic, indicates how well known is Anakara's continued support for designated terrorist groups. See the RT website for video of Russian air recon footage:

Turkey keeps shelling Kurds, backing terrorist groups in Syria – Russian MoD
5 Mar, 2016 - 03:51 [GMT]

Turkey continues to shell Kurdish forces in Syria, hampering their operations against Al-Nusra terrorists [al Qaeda branch in Syria], and at the same time funneling supplies to the militant-controlled areas at the border, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported.

Ankara bears responsibility for the ongoing ceasefire violations in the Syrian provinces of Idlib and Aleppo, the head of the Russian ceasefire monitoring center Lt. Gen. Sergey Kuralenko told journalists at a briefing on March 4.

[Pundita note: Technically Turkey hasn't violated the "cessation of hostilities" agreement because it's not party to it.]

Militants continue to freely cross the Turkish-Syrian border, Kuralenko noted, presenting the latest reconnaissance video featuring a “large terrorist unit in a forested border area.”

Another video depicted Turkish artillery in a border garrison near the Yanankey settlement targeting Kurdish positions in Syria.

"Artillery shelling of Kurdish militia units, fighting against Nusra Front, continues from the territory of a Turkish border post near Yanankey," Kuralenko said.

Lt. Gen. also noted that in footage captured by an RT crew who traveled with the Kurdish YPG force in the area, Turkish trucks crossed the Turkish-Syrian border, according to Kuralenko. He said they are carrying supplies and arms exclusively to the territories controlled by Al-Nusra Front and Ahrar ash-Sham terrorist groups. [emphasis mine]

Turkish activities in the region are undermining the ceasefire and crippling the efforts aimed at launching the inter-Syrian dialogue and bringing peace to Syria, the defense ministry spokesman reiterated.

The ceasefire regime in Syria is being monitored and promoted via special centers set up in Moscow, Washington, Amman and Latakia and Geneva to collect and review information. The Russian center has registered 27 breaches of the ceasefire regime over the last 24 hours, with most of them – eight breaches – occurring in Aleppo, the Defense Ministry reported on Friday. The province of Idlib has seen a total of 7 violations, Damascus and Homs – 4 in each, Daraa – 3, Latakia – 1.

Besides Damascus, almost 100 various armed groups operating in Syria, alongside different regional and international interested parties, have agreed to take part in ceasefire, according to UN Syria special envoy Staffan de Mistura. The groups that don’t obey the ceasefire, including but not limited to ISIS and Al-Nusra, are considered terrorists.

Five more commanders of so-called Syria’s moderate opposition groups agreed to take part in the ceasefire along with the elders of two settlements in the province of Homs just recently, according to the ministry’s statement. Leaders of four other groups may soon join the agreement.

The nationwide ceasefire was implemented on February, 27 at midnight Damascus time. Outlined by the co-chairs of the ISSG (the International Syrian Support Group) US and Russia, it was supported by the United Nations Security Council and is abiding to all parties involved in the conflict. The exceptions are Islamic State group (IS, formely ISIS/ISIL), Al-Nusra, and“other terrorist organizations” as designated by the UN Security Council.


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