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World View: Turkey and America Play a Game of 'Chicken' over ISIS and Kobani

World View: Turkey and America Play a Game of 'Chicken' over ISIS and Kobani

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Turkey and America play a game of ‘chicken’ over ISIS and Kobani
  • Russia makes farcical demand for Security Council resolution on Kobani
  • Iran blames Pakistan for terrorist attacks
  • The continuing realignment of the Mideast

Turkey and America play a game of ‘chicken’ over ISIS and Kobani

Aftermath of US air strike on Kobani on Wednesday (Reuters)
Aftermath of US air strike on Kobani on Wednesday (Reuters)

A real geopolitical drama is in progress, as the Islamic State ofIraq and Syria (IS or ISIS or ISIL) attack on the Syrian city ofKobani, on the border with Turkey, may be close to victory. An ISISvictory would have potentially severe consequences for both Americaand Turkey. The battle of Kobani is being watched very closely aroundthe Mideast, and an ISIS victory would expose the American airstrikestrategy as a failure that exposed hundreds of thousands of civilianKurds to slaughter. An ISIS victory would also create hundreds ofthousands of new refugees adding to the hundreds of thousands whocrossed the border into Turkey in the last three weeks. An ISISvictory might also trigger a renewal of Turkey’s civil war versus thethe separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

So Turkey and America are playing a grand game of “chicken.” In theclassic American 1950s game, two teenagers get into cars at oppositeends of a long street, and drive towards each other. The firstteenager to turn aside to avoid a collision is a “chicken,” and theother teenager wins. If neither teenager turns aside, then there’s acollision, resulting in deaths and/or injuries, but both sides have

In the current game of chicken over ISIS and Kobani, both America andTurkey are making demands of the other side to save Kobani from ISIS.If either side gives in and does something to save Kobani, then thatside will be “chicken,” and the other side will have won. If neitherside does anything, and Kobani falls, possibly leading to hundreds ofthousands of deaths and refugees, then both America and Turkey willhave “won.”

It would be funny if the consequences weren’t so serious. Americatells Turkey to send ground troops to save Kobani. Turkey says thatthey won’t, unless America also sends in ground troops.

As I understand Turkey’s statements in the last few days, Turkey mightbe willing to send in ground troops alone, provided that Americaagrees to set up a no-fly zone in Syria, restricting Syria’s airforce.

Akin Unver, assistant professor of international relations at KadirHas University in Istanbul, says that there are fundamentaldifferences between Turkey’s and America’s strategies. In aninterview on Al-Jazeera (my transcription):

I think there’s a fundamental difference inWashington’s and Ankara’s view on what ISIS is, and how best tocounter ISIS. […] 

For Washington, basically ISIS may be an unfortunate result of anIraq war, but it has to be combatted.

For Ankara, ISIS is a product of Assad and Maliki’s policies for avery long time, that Ankara was actually warning the world about.Ankara was basically asking for a Western coalition, a Westernmilitary coalition against Assad, as well as some diplomatic pushfor Maliki, so that radicalization in the form of ISIS wouldn’thappen.

But when you think from the perspective of Ankara, all of thesewarnings are unheeded, so basically right now Ankara doesn’t thinkthat Washington sees the picture very clearly. So that’s the bsicdivergence. […] 

But the logic, rationale and narrative is that we told Washingtonthat ISIS or a similar organization would happen, becausebasically if you want to deal with ISIS, you first have to get ridof the fundamental causes that produce that kind ofradicalization, and the number one culprit that Ankara can find isAssad. Maybe not remove Assad, but basically create a securezone, or cordon sanitaire in northern Syria, so thatAssad’s forces will never be able to move in there. That’s theonly way that Ankara thinks they can resolve thisissue.”

I actually agree with this. I’ve been saying for almost two yearsthat the actions of Syria’s genocidal monster Bashar al-Assad and hisslaughter and displacement of millions of innocent Sunni women andchildren would draw jihadists from all over the world, and that’sexactly what has happened, resulting in the creation of ISIS. Turkeywarned exactly the same thing, but it was ignored.

I’ve also pointed out for two years that the fault lies withRussia as well, which has been supplying al-Assad with unlimited amounts of heavyweapons to use in his campaign of extermination against Sunnis, makingRussia’s president Vladimir Putin a war criminal.

Syria is in a generational Awakening era (like America in the 1960s),an era in which civil wars are impossible, or fizzle quickly if theystart. The Syrian civil war began in 2011, and fizzled within a year,turning into a proxy war between Russia and jihadist forces thatbecame ISIS.

In an article by Akin Unver (quoted above), Unver says that Turkey isalarmed by Russia’s support of al-Assad for another reason:

In today’s terms, Russia’s annexation of Crimea issufficiently alarming for Ankara, with the added dimension ofRussian naval supremacy in the Black Sea. Turkey is now virtuallydefenseless there and has lost its deterrence or negotiationleverages against Moscow in a number of issues. The most immediateis the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) designations in the BlackSea, critical due to Shell, Exxon, and Chevron explorationoperations on Turkey’s northern coast.

If the US wants to recruit Turkey’s support against ISIL, not onlyshould it address the full spectrum of the causes that createdISIL in the first place, but also make longer-term commitmentsagainst a Russian backlash against Turkey in the Black Sea. Onlyby approaching Ukraine and ISIL as complementing grand strategyissues can Washington find the ally it seeks in Ankara, withoutany need to counterproductively move any bases out of Turkey orclumsily write-off Ankara’s cooperation.

Turkey’s issue with Russia in the Black Sea is totally ignored inalmost all media discussions of Turkey’s strategy in Syria. World WarI and the Crimean War were the last two generational crisis wars ofboth Russia and Turkey, and they were on opposite sides in both wars.Washington Post and Today’s Zaman (Istanbul) and Al-Jazeera (Doha) and The National (UAE)

Russia makes farcical demand for Security Council resolution on Kobani

Turkey is saying that the anti-ISIS coalition will get Turkey’smilitary support only if the coalition will target the Bashar al-Assadregime as well. Specifically, Turkey is demanding:

  • Establish buffer zones inside Syria, both to protect its own borders and to provide areas where refugees could gather safely. But creating such zones would represent a significant military operation requiring the seizure of defendable terrain.
  • Establish a no-fly zone to protect Turkey against Syria’s Air Force.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry is making a farcical demand to submit thediscussion on buffer zones in Syria to a vote in the United NationsSecurity Council (so that they can veto it). According to spokesmanAlexander Lukashevich: “It is up to the UN Security Council to makedecisions on these (buffer) zones. You remember the way it was inIraq, Libya, and what it resulted in.”

Russia has been using the UN Security County to humiliate the UnitedStates since 2010, by lying repeatedly and then vetoing any attempt tostop the genocide in Syria. Lukashevich mentioned Iraq and Libya, butdidn’t bother to mention Ukraine, where Russian soldiers invadedUkraine and annexed it to Russia, and then Russian soldiers invadedeast Ukraine, leaving it unstable mess, after shooting down anairliner. And Russia did all this without getting approval from theUN Security Council.

I don’t know what decision the Obama administration will make inSyria, but I hope that it will just take the decision, without afarcical vote in the UN Security Council. BBC and Itar-Tass (Moscow)

Iran blames Pakistan for terrorist attacks

A car bomb attack on a police station in an Iran city on the borderwith Pakistan on Thursday morning killed a police officer, injuringothers. The day before, three other police officers were killed in aseparate terrorist attack. The Pakistan-based terror groupJaish-ul-Adl (Army of Justice) has reportedly claimed responsibilityfor the terrorist attacks.

Iran is blaming Pakistan’s government for the attacks. In an officialstatement by former IRGC commander MP Mohammad Esmail Kowsari:

We wish that these acts of terror in the country,especially in border towns would end for good, but the main issueis that the Pakistani government does not secure its borders.

The Pakistani government has practically no control over theborder areas and if they really cannot control it they better tellus so that we ourselves could take action.

This may be a veiled threat to send Iranian forces into Pakistan topursue Jaish-ul-Adl, just as American forces entered Pakistan tocapture Osama bin Laden. Pakistan Today and Tasnim News (Iran) and AEI Iran Tracker

The continuing realignment of the Mideast

During the last six weeks, I’ve written several articles on the Mideast realignment following the Gaza war. Iran is in a generational Awakening era, like America inthe 1960s, and has a similar “generation gap,” separating thesurvivors the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution and Iran/Iraq war from theyounger generations that have grown up afterwards. This has resultedin schizophrenic Iranian policies, balancing the hardline attitudes ofthe Supreme Leader and other geezers who survived the IslamicRevolution versus the people in the younger generations, who like theWest and don’t hate Israel.

What decision will the American administration make with regard toKobani? In particular, will America challenge al-Assad militarily?

It’s impossible to predict individual political decisions, but it ispossible to describe the long-term trends. And as I’ve been sayingfor almost ten years, based on a Generational Dynamics analysis,India, Russia and Iran will be our allies in the coming Clash ofCivilizations world war, versus China, Pakistan, and the SunniMuslims. Several long-time readers have written to me recently to saythat they didn’t believe these predictions ten years ago, but are nowastonished to see them coming true.

So let’s focus now on Kobani and Syria. The long-term trends indicatethat America will hold its nose and side with Russia, Iran andal-Assad. In the immediate context, this probably means that Americawill NOT support Turkey’s demands for a buffer area or no-fly zone inSyria.

However, I can find no long-term trend that provides a way to forecastwhat will happen to the people of Kobani. What America or Turkey willdo is a purely political chaotic (in the sense of Chaos theory)decision, which can’t be predicted. The Kurds in Kobani claim thatthey’re holding off the ISIS fighters, and hope to win. Or maybeeither Turkey or America will find a way to provide ground troops. Ormaybe Kobani will fall, with all the repercussions outlined above.Right now, there is no way to predict.

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Turkey, Syria, Kurds, Kobani,Tayyip Erdogan, Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, game of chicken,Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL,Akin Unver, Russia, Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad, Black Sea,Alexander Lukashevich, Ukraine, Crimea,Iran, Pakistan, Jaish-ul-Adl, Army of Justice,Mohammad Esmail Kowsari, China, Pakistan, India
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