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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 15 Jul 15

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There’s a coup in Turkey, and we don’t know how it’ll turn out…but probably badly. Another terrorist attack occurred in Nice, France. Also, Driving While Black is a real thing, but some people just need to be shot by cops. Oh, and we should distribute income better.

 This week’s podcast is up on the Podcast page.

Foreign affairs – How bad is it?

This bad:

Secretary of State Kerry worked for three months to get the warring parties to a negotiating table under the auspices of the United Nations — moderate rebels, representatives of the regime, Iranians, Saudi Arabians and Russians. But Moscow then turned around and launched its offensive right as the talks began. Within 48 hours, the Russian air force carried out 320 airstrikes in northern Syria alone. It was no coincidence that the storm on Aleppo began at that exact moment. The aim was that of destroying any possibility that the opposition would have a say in Syria’s future.

Yes, that’s right, the Russians had no intention of working within the process and were simply setting up an opportunity to embarrass the United States.

I know, you’re shocked, aren’t you?

Secretary of State John Kerry conceded that his much-touted ceasefire in Syria, set to take effect Saturday, “may be” little more than what a Democratic senator called a “rope-a-dope deal.”

With Washington as the dope.

“I’m not going to vouch for this,” said Kerry. With good reason: It doesn’t cover ISIS, the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and other terrorist groups — nor anyone who cares to fire at them. For months, Russia’s been bombing anyone it wants to while claiming to be targeting ISIS.

One off?  Hardly:

In a move likely to further increase already volatile tensions in the region, China has deployed fighter jets to a contested island in the South China Sea, the same island where China deployed surface-to-air missiles last week, two U.S. officials tell Fox News.

The dramatic escalation came as Secretary of State John Kerry hosted his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at the State Department.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so dangerous.  The disrespect toward Kerry is much deserved, but it is primarily being shown to Obama. Kerry is just the proxy.  These two states, among many others, simply have no respect or fear of Obama.  None.  And while they’ll play the diplomatic game, they’re two realpolitik states.  When the former leader of the West shows weakness, they exploit it.  Kerry just is the guy they choose to embarrass directly.

Oh, and speaking of ISIS, have you been monitoring its growth in Libya?  You know Libya, the other foreign policy triumph of the Obama administration.  Different Secretary of State, same disastrous result.  And what is Obama doing?  Well he’s considering a solution much like his Syrian solution.  No boots on the ground and train some “good guys” to oppose ISIS.

So what does that tell adversaries?  A) He hasn’t a clue.  He’s in the middle of doubling down on failure.  B) He will not commit to the effective use of American force.  Yeah he may throw a few cruise missiles and air strikes at the place, but he really doesn’t plan to do much.  And C) he’s the lamest of lame ducks and will likely do what he’s done for 7 years if either China or Russia act aggressively – talk big and carry no stick.

Where does that leave this situation?

The Russians made clear that they were also coming in to help deal with the threat of the so-called Islamic State in Syria. It soon became apparent, however, that the Russian targeting strategy was less concerned with ISIS than tilting the balance of the civil war in favor of Assad and that Russian forces are now using tanks to target rebel strongholds in and around Aleppo.

Saudi Arabia has now moved fighter jets to Turkey with the aim of carrying out strikes inside Syria and has agreed to deploy special forces coming into Syria via Turkey.

Turkey is making it clearer by the day that it may feel it necessary to move from shelling mainly Kurdish positions inside Syria to moving troops and tanks into Syria. Meanwhile, concerns are being raised about Turkey invoking Article 5 of the NATO treaty, if Turkish forces were to be attacked by Russia or Syria.

NATO has every right to advise caution on Turkey, its fellow NATO member. But in these circumstances, following the Russian intervention — now that its full nature is revealed — it is very hard to argue that that it is not unreasonable for both Saudi Arabia and Turkey to contemplate such action.

NATO needs to establish two clear positions:

  1. That it will not become embroiled as an alliance in fighting on the ground in Syria.

  2. It will, however, respond to any attack that threatens the territorial integrity of Turkey.

Most people who know anything know that as the US goes, so goes NATO.

Anyone – do you really believe the so-called “commander-in-chief” would heed Turkey’s invocation of Article 5 and confront the Russians?

Two days before Christmas, as American policymakers were settling into the holidays, Russia quietly signed a sweeping air defense agreement with Armenia, accelerating a growing Russian military buildup that has unfolded largely under the radar. It was the most tangible sign yet that Putin is creating a new satellite state on NATO’s border and threatening an indispensable U.S. ally.

The buildup in Armenia has been glossed over in Washington, despite being a key piece of Vladimir Putin’s plan to dominate the region — along with its proxy Syria and growing military ties with Iran. Most importantly, Armenia shares an approximately 165 mile border with Turkey, a NATO member and the alliance’s southern flank. 

And now Russia has 8,500 military personnel, 600 artillery pieces, 200 warplanes and 50 warships in the area.

Does that smell like “fear” to anyone?

If so, it’s probably emanating from DC.


What would it take to get us off our rear ends in this country?

I assume you’re aware of the riots in Turkey.  The people of Turkey, or at least a unhappy group of them, are making themselves and their feelings known in a very direct way.  According to the WSJ, it began over a park in Istanbul that was going to be replaced by a housing development and shopping center (since the Turkish government controls the media, this “cause” could be as flaky as the anti-Islamic video causing Benghazi).  The natives, or at least some of them, are not happy about that.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not happy about the situation either.  Why, how dare these people question his government and its motives. They’re pure as the driven snow:

“If you can call someone who is a servant of the country a dictator, then it leaves me speechless,” he said in a televised speech. “I have no aim other than serving the nation.”

The siren song of every dictator I’ve ever heard of or read about.  My guess he borrowed the words from Mr. Assad in Syria, who, may have gotten them from Saddam Hussein, who … well you get the picture.  And add a little “Bolivarian revolution” to the statement and the dead but unlamented Hugo Chavez or his mentor Fidel Castro could have said them.

Perhaps the most interesting statement, however, came from someone in the street:

People are angry because the government is interfering in everything, be it the alcohol restriction, building of the third bridge, or the new Taksim Square. Everything has piled up, and that’s why people protest,” said Erdal Bozyayla, a 29-year-old restaurant worker who supported the protesters and condemned the violence.

I’d like to believe that’s the real sentiment behind those riots and protests.  It may not be.  But it got me to thinking what it would take in this country for people to actually take that sort of direct action (and no I’m not condoning or calling for violence … direct action doesn’t have to be violent – witness the civil rights movement).  Oh, sure, we’ve had the “Tea Party” rallies and the like, but what is happening in Turkey is obviously much different than that.  And if they sentiment expressed is the true cause, why is it that a country like Turkey, with only a short history of freedom (now under concentraged attack by the latest “servant of the country”) apparently have the gumption to say “enough”, when we simply roll over each time another of our freedoms is taken or pared down.

Now, I recognize there could be all sorts of other factions, to include extremist Islamist factions who don’t think Erdogan is moving far or fast enough, could now be trying to co-opt the protests and turn them into something else.  But still, was the spark really “the government is interfering in everything” and if so, when, if ever, will that spark be struck here?


Well, this is sure to help: Turkey calls Israel a “terrorist state”

I know, like me, you’ve been watching with some wonder as Israel gets called everything but a child of God for defending itself from hundreds of rockets being fired into its country and then having the unmitigated temerity to strike back. Now we have a member of NATO upping the tensions just a bit more:

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan described Israel on Monday as a “terrorist state” in carrying out its bombardment of Gaza, underlining hostility for Ankara’s former ally since relations between them collapsed in 2010.

His comments came after nearly a week of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. An Israeli missile killed at least 11 Palestinian civilians including four children in Gaza on Sunday.

“Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza,” Erdogan told a conference of the Eurasian Islamic Council in Istanbul.

I’d go through the litany of the whys and wherefores that detail why there are “civilian” casualties when Israel strikes back (hint: because that’s part of the plan when Hamas does these sorts of things as a means of swaying the ignorant and those who tend buy into the “poor, wronged victims” they love to portray themselves as), but you know them as well as I do.

We’ve talked about Turkey’s inexorable slide toward radical Islam for quite some time, so in reality, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.  Turkey, which once looked west has turned its view to the east and is eyeing regional power.  Turkey knows that there’s one requirement to admission to power in that region, and that’s embracing and touting Islam.  In fact, it is about embracing a radical form of Islam that refuses to recognize Israel or it’s right to exist.  This is just another shot among many that Turkey has taken.  The NATO reference just reminds us of the possible difficulties their membership could pose in a situation like this.

And speaking of the present situation, as soon as Israel strikes back we begin to hear the false arguments about “proportionality” begin to surface.  No one mentions that 750 to 1,000 unanswered rockets and mortars have flown disproportionally into Israel, it’s always about those 100 air strikes the Israelis put into Gaza that are condemned as violating this new law of proportionality.  Yes, proportionality is only a concern when Israel acts, not when the terrorists attack.

The real reason that it comes up at all is because Hamas surrounds its launchers with civilians and are lousy shots and Israel isn’t.

It’s just not fair.


There is no US national security interest in a Syrian intervention

I just wanted to make that clear as we look at the Turkish jet shoot down and the fact that Turkey has invoked chapter 4 of the NATO treaty:

That is the provision that calls on NATO member countries to “consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened.” Turkey’s Islamist foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has announced that Turkey is calling for an emergency consultation of NATO members under Article 4 to consider a response to what it deems Syrian aggression.

Now the backstory, so you at least understand why this presents a possibility of NATO, and thus the US, being pulled into such an intervention (possibly willingly, I’ll get to that later).  It comes from Andrew McCarty at PJ Media:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a Sunni Islamic supremacist with longstanding ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Sunni supremacist organization. The Brotherhood is leading the mujahideen (called the “opposition” or the “rebels” by the mainstream media) that seeks to oust the Assad regime in Syria — dominated by the Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. Unsurprisingly, then, Turkey’s government has taken a very active role in abetting the Brotherhood’s operations against the Syrian regime, which have also been joined by al-Qaeda and other Sunni militants.

On Friday, a Turkish air force jet entered Syrian air space, and Assad regime forces shot it down. Turkey claims the jet “mistakenly” cruised over Syria, and that, by the time it was taken down, it was in international air space over the Mediterranean. One need carry no brief for Assad to conclude that, given the interventionist drumbeat for no-fly zones and direct military and logistical aid to the “opposition,” Syria rationally took the presence of a Turkish military aircraft in its air space as a provocation. Turkey insists it was not “spying” — that this was just an accident to which Syria overreacted. That would be a good argument if the regime were not under siege and if the Syrian and Turkish governments had not been exchanging hostile words (mostly, threats from Erdogan) for months. That, of course, is not the case.

Confused?  Well don’t be.  This is just another chapter in the eternal war between the Sunnis and Shiites and between the religious and secular.  Turkey happens to be an Islamic Sunni enclave (some want you to believe the country is “secular” but it isn’t thanks to Erdogan) and Syria is ruled by a “secular” Shiite government which, by the way, is ideologically identical to Saddam’s Iraq.  You know, the Syrian government headed by a man this US administration labeled as “a reformer” not so long ago?  Well, it’s “under the bus” time for him.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia – that would be Wahhabist Saudi Arabia (Sunni) – have been arming the Syrian rebels along with who, oh yeah, the Muslim Brotherhood.  And that has ended up seeing good old Al Qaeda show up on the rebel side, which apparently is fine with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Brotherhood.


The Obama administration, from its first days, has cozied up to the Muslim Brotherhood — both Brotherhood branches in the Middle East, and Brotherhood satellite organizations in the U.S., such as CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America. Obama has also been quietly supporting the Syrian mujahideen: coordinating with repressive Islamist governments in Turkey and Saudi Arabia to arm and train them, and reportedly dispatching the CIA to facilitate this effort. But it has thus far resisted calls for more overt participation — calls by pro-Brotherhood progressives in both parties for something along the lines of what Obama did in Libya, meaning: without congressional approval and toward the end of empowering virulently anti-Western Islamists.

There was no US interest in intervening in Libya but we did (we used R2P as the excuse and NATO as the tool).  Syria, of course, would present orders of magnitudes more difficulty militarily.  It is a much more sophisticated military power than was Libya.

The problem?  Well while Obama may be reluctant to intervene alone, NATO might provide a perfect excuse/vehicle.  And the benefits would be fairly obvious electorally.  It would “change the subject” again.  It would make him a “war time” president (yes, technically he is now, but A’stan isn’t “his” war so he doesn’t quite get the benefit public support for his continuation in office).  And he could cite “treaty obligations” as a reason without having to go to Congress.

He also has the “good experience” of Libya as a sort of enticement to try the same thing again.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia make out rather well too.  They  get the crusaders to fight and die in their battle all so the Islamists can eventually take the prize.  The US and NATO would end up fighting to help put Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in charge in Syria.

Ironic?  Uh, slightly.

Point: This is not a NATO or US fight.  This is something that we should stay as far from as we can.

Politics, however, will be integral to any decision made at this point, at least in the US. Domestic electoral politics.  What scares me is the possibility the Obama administration may conclude it is a good idea politically to use NATO to “change the subject” and make Obama a “war time President” hoping the advantages of that situation will make the difference in November.  And it wouldn’t be a unilateral decision, but instead receive bi-partisan support as Sen. McCain and other GOP members have been outspoken in their desire to intervene.

Call me paranoid but I find nothing in my analysis that’s at all infeasible or improbable.  In fact, having watched this administration at work, I consider it to be a completely possible scenario.


Twitter: @McQandO

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 18 Sep 11

In this podcast, Bruce Michael, and Dale discuss Solyndra affair, and some troubling news from Turkey.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Observations: The QandO Podcast for 31 Jul 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss concerns about Turkey, and the debt limit.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Egypt woos US foes

Egypt continues to make more and more moves indicating that it desires to distance itself from the US and that more instability in the region will probably result from its diplomatic moves.

After decades of no relations with certain countries in the region, with the full approval of the US (and one would assume the lack of such relations would be in the best interest of the US and peace in the region), Egypt has now decided to change that course.  They tie to moves to regaining their regional prestige:

Iran and Egypt’s new government signaled Monday they were moving quickly to thaw decades of frosty relations, worrying the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that the overtures could upset the Mideast’s fragile balance of power.

Iran said it appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides froze diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, the website of the Iranian government’s official English-language channel, Press TV, reported late Monday.

Also Monday, officials at Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Elaraby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip—an area controlled by Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamist group backed by Tehran and until now shunned by Cairo.

It would be pretty hard not to see where this could lead. 

Additionally, Egypt is reaching out to Syria:

Egypt’s outreach has also extended to Syria, a close ally of Iran. In early March, Egypt’s new intelligence chief, Murad Muwafi, chose Syria for his first foreign trip.

The result of our “hey, Hosni, get out of town” policy?

Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Arab league, owes his front-runner status in Egyptian presidential elections later this year to his forceful statements against Israel when he was Egypt’s foreign minister during the 1990s. Islamist groups in particular have been empowered by Egypt’s abrupt shift to democracy, and analysts expect that Egypt’s next government will have to answer to growing calls that it break with U.S. foreign-policy objectives.

Some Islamist political voices within Egypt have already begun their own sort of diplomacy. Magdi Hussein, the chairman of the Islamist Al Amal (Labor) Party, met with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi earlier this week in Tehran. Both sides encouraged a quickening of the diplomatic thaw between the two countries.

Egypt appears to be following a foreign relations pattern set by Turkey in the past decade—a strong American ally whose foreign policy has nevertheless decoupled from American interests. Regardless of its final position on Iran, the country is likely to be significantly less beholden to U.S. interests, American officials said, if only because Egypt was such a reliable ally under Mr. Mubarak.

"It’s hard to imagine a change that would improve on what we had" with the previous Egyptian regime, one U.S. official said.

If there’s a “Doomsday clock” for Middle East war, it is quickly moving toward 1 minute to midnight.

Meanwhile in Libya, the “days, not weeks” war enters its 2nd month with no resolution in sight.