Greater Middle East
We noted a year ago that China was an official but not very active member of the global covergence against ISIS. Now Pravda reports the claims of Russian Senator Igor Morozov that Beijing has taken the decision to send warships to the Syrian coast. Morozov, a member of the Russian Federation Committee on International Affairs, said: "It is known that China has joined our military operation in Syria, the Chinese cruiser has already entered the Mediterranean, aircraft carrier follows it." The growing Russian military presence in Syria is viewed with unease by the West, revealing a tension (at least) within the global convergence. This tension will be significantly augmented if China really enters the fray.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sept. 22 that Egypt violated international law during the creation of a "buffer zone" between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. According to HRW, the creation of the buffer zone required demolition of more than 3,200 buildings in the Sinai Peninsula between July 2013 and August 2015, resulting in the displacement and eviction of "thousands of families." The Egyptian government maintains that the buffer zone is necessary to prevent the importation of weapons from the Gaza Strip to separatist rebels in Sinai who are affiliated with the Islamic State. HRW asserts that the manner in which the buffer zone was created violated international law in multiple respects, including treatment of civilians and proportionality under the laws of war, the right to housing contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the right to property contained in the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right. HRW called on the Egyptian government to halt the demolitions in Sinai, provide for adequate compensation of land owners, create a fair resettlement plan for the displaced, and studying whether less destructive means could be employed to neutralize the smuggling tunnels.
The Rojava Kurds of northern Syria continue to be punished for their success against ISIS. Their ground offensive has throughout the summer been driving ISIS back towards Raqqa, the "Islamic State" capital. The autonomous Rojava cantons, previously cut off from each other by areas of ISIS control, are now linked by swaths of liberated territory. This dramatically contrasts recent ISIS gains in central Syria. Now Middle East Eye reports that the Rojava Kurds's YPG militia is advancing on Jarabulus, the last ISIS-controlled town on the Turkish border. The account cites the widespread perception among the Kurds that the Turkish government has been conniving with ISIS: "Taking the Jarabulus crossing would be a major advance for the YPG since they are convinced that IS gets supplies of recruits and weaponry through Turkey. YPG officials claim the crossing is open, and IS has no need for smugglers or breaks in the border fence." In a particularly sinister game, Ankara has collaborated with ISIS even while equating ISIS and the anti-ISIS YPG as both "terrorist" (sic!). Such propaganda will doubtless be escalated if the entire Syrian border with Turkey falls under YPG control, raising fears in Ankara of an independent Kurdish state.
"Leftist" (sic) shilling for fascist dictator Bashar Assad reaches new levels of deception in an entry from one Adam Johnson of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), perversely entitled "Down the Memory Hole: NYT Erases CIA's Efforts to Overthrow Syria's Government." The chutzpah of invoking Orwell in his title is downright Orwellian, as his distortions reveal the very name "Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting" to be pure doublethink. Wedded to the persistent pseudo-left hallucination of a US campaign to destabilize Assad, Johnson gripes: "This past week, two pieces—one in the New York Times detailing the 'finger pointing' over Obama's 'failed' Syria policy, and a Vox 'explainer' of the Syrian civil war—...didn't just omit the fact that the CIA has been arming, training and funding rebels since 2012, they heavily implied they had never done so." So what is Johnson's evidence that the CIA has been doing this? In defense of his claim, he links to articles in (funny) the New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and the Washington Post. But if you bother actually click on the links (perish the thought), you'll find that none of them quite back up Johnson's assertions...
Street clashes continue in the Sur district of the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakır, which has for days been under siege by Turkish security forces. On Sept. 13, Diyarbakır's governor declared a 24-hour indefinite curfew in the district, but it was widely defied as angry protesters continued to fill the streets. Police threatened to shoot curfew violators, and have opened fire on protests—thus far resulting in no casualties, apparently. "Everywhere is Sur, everywhere resistance," crowds chant. Protests have spread to the nearby Koşuyolu Park, were demonstrators are rallying around the local offices of Democratic Society Congress (DTK). Police are trying to round up leaders of the PKK-affiliated Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement (YDG-H), who they say are behind the uprising. The Democratic Regions Party (DBP) has called on all residents of Diyarbakır to join the protests and converge on Sur district. Apparently fearing escalation, the city's government lifted the curfew after one day. (JINHA, Today's Zaman, Sept. 14)
Amid signs of an escalating Russian intervention in Syria, the opposition government-in-exile issued a statement entitled: "Our People's Will and Determination Will Defeat Any Foreign Occupation." Ahmed Ramadan, a member of the opposition General Assembly, invoked the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and said: "Any repeat of that mistake will have disastrous consequences on Russia." He added: "It is unacceptable that a permanent member of the UN Security Council send weapons and mercenaries for a regime responsible for the death of over 300,000 Syrian citizens, including 81,000 children and a woman, the displacement of 14 million people and the reduction of most Syrian cities and towns to rubble. Syrians have the will and determination to defeat any possible foreign occupation of their homeland, just like what they have done throughout history, and have been doing for nearly five years against the Iranian occupation and its tool represented in the Assad regime." (Syrian Coalition, Sept. 9)
ISIS fighters have seized the last oil-field still under the control of the Assad regime after several days of fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Jazal field, with a production capacity of 2,500 barrels per day, has changed hands before, with ISIS briefly capturing it in June before regime forces retook it. The nearby town of Jazal has also been occupied by ISIS. Of course, the Assad regime has directly abetted the rise of ISIS by buying their oil, so now we will find out if the Islamic State will cut off Damascus and gear up for a final offensive—or if the relationship between the supposed enemies is in fact too incestuous for that. And Turkey has, up to now at least, also been a ready market for ISIS oil... A relationship also now being put to the test, as Ankara as ostensibly joined the US-led anti-ISIS coalition—despite having connived with ISIS against the Kurdish forces.
The Turkish military carried out air-strikes against PKK positions Sept. 7, a day after a guerilla attack on a military convoy near Daglica, Hakkari province, in which either 16 or 31 soldiers were killed (whether you believe the government or the PKK). Turkish fighter jets have struck 23 targets in the area, in what the military called a "heavy air campaign." (NYT, AP, BGN, Sept. 7) There is no word yet on casualties from the air-strikes, which are presumably on villages thought to be PKK strongholds. But world leaders and media are largely giving the Turkish state a free ride in its efforts to cast its campaign of state terror in "anti-terrorist" terms. Turkey will be "cleaned of terrorists no matter what happens," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu boasted to the official Anadolu news agency. Daily Sabah boasts in its headline, "World stands by Turkey against terrorism," noting that the French Foreign Ministry denounced the "terrorist attack claimed by the PKK against military vehicles in the southeast of Turkey" and pledged "solidarity with the Turkish authorities." But the ongoing attacks on Kurdish civilians by Turkish state forces are conveniently invisible to the outside world...