Dec 23 (1/1): Erdogan Even Ruins Soccer

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) declined to fine the Turkish national soccer team for political statements in the form of military salutes. Issues fines for fans for the same stuff.

This is a double standard that, beyond all logic and reason, is a real thing that happened.

duvaR: UEFA reprimands Turkey over footballers’ military salutes

European football’s ruling body UEFA has slapped Turkey with a reprimand for military salutes performed by the Turkish footballers during two Euro 2020 qualifier matches. The UEFA has also fined Turkish Football Federation (TTF) 50,000 euros for crowd incidents during the matches.

The Turkish players made the military salute on Oct. 11 to celebrate their victory against Albania in Istanbul. Three days later on Oct. 14, they repeated the gesture while celebrating a goal they scored against France in Paris. The salutes were given in support of Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria.

Amid calls for the UEFA to take a firm action, the organization said on Oct. 15 that it was investigating “potential provocative political behavior” by the players during the two Euro 2020 qualifiers.

The UEFA announced the result of the investigation on Dec. 11, fining the Turkish Football Federation 50,000 euros. TTF acting president Servet Yardımcı made a statement regarding the issue, saying: “There is no fine given related to the military salute. The UEFA has given a fine of 50,000 euros only regarding crowd incidents.”

Beyond all the bad things going on here, there is something really fundamentally dumb about fining fans, a.k.a. “fanatics,” for following the lead of their sports heroes.

BBC: Euro 2020: Uefa probes Turkey footballers’ military salute

Tosun posted the salute photo on Instagram, with the message: “For our nation, especially for the ones who are risking their lives for our nation.”

Uefa does not allow political gestures.

So this is clearly an issue of personal expression. So if it’s political, that makes it political expression.

Hell, even the sports message board that this blog began on would suspend the players if they expressed anything like this in the non-political sports forums; we don’t tolerate that crap here.

Turkey, naturally, is claiming discrimination.

Hurriyet: Turkey condemns UEFA for military salute probe in football

Turkey condemned European football‘s governing body UEFA on Nov. 7 for their discriminatory treatment of Turkish national team and clubs over celebratory salutes.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a news conference in the Turkish capital Ankara that UEFA should be aware of this wrongdoing.

“When it comes to Turkey and Turkish athletes, the attitude [of UEFA] changes,” Erdoğan said, adding that Europe’s football body should not let sports be politicized with their wrong decisions.

He said that the UEFA action targeting Turkish athletes’ solidarity with the Turkish army means “an obvious unlawfulness” as it described these celebrations “provocative political behavior”.

Erdoğan added that Turkish athletes representing their country abroad faced a “systematical lynch campaign” since the launch of Turkey’s cross border anti-terror operation dubbed Peace Spring.

Turkish players in all sports especially football have been celebrating by a salute in tribute to the Turkish soldiers engaged on the frontline.

So a lack of solidarity with the Turkish military is unlawful? That’s like fascism 101.

Let’s be clear: If you express yourself, you’re responsible for the message. If you make a mistake, sure, but the message sent is out there.

And we all understand this implicitly, even if sometimes things need to be teased out a bit.

For example, lots of people don’t realize that it used to be that when Americas pledged allegiance to the flag, we did the Bellamy salute.

bellamy salute usa ppledge allegiance

Adorable isn’t it?

And people wonder why some people refused to do that for religious reasons? Heck, it even had to go the Supreme Court because some Christians—Jehovah’s Witnesses, to be precise—felt that might run afoul of idol worship.

Something about the Commandments.

So basically, after national socialism reared its ugly head and got really, really into the Bellamy salute, Americans didn’t feel comfortable with it anymore.

So they bent the arm at the elbow and dropped it a bit.

pledge allegiance flag heart.jpg

That’s nicer, isn’t it?

What’s interesting is that the change in the salute has, in a way, “retconned” the meaning, and it became more about the heart and less about the mind; less formal rational obedience and more about an emotional engagement of the act.

Now, both speak to how people relate to the spirit of the thing, but those are very different things in terms of their function of how a human being thinks and feels about the whole thing.

Now, a discussion of the pros and cons of moving the salute from the head to the heart would require extensive treatment. Suffice to say, for present purposes, the fact that there is a difference matters.

But just as important: How we choose to express ourselves makes a difference not just to others, but to ourselves. How we think about our relation to country and nation. How we think about the larger body itself.

So, yeah, if Turkey feels they’re being discriminated against, it’s not prejudicial discrimination: Their behavior is being singled out because it’s overtly political in ways that soccer doesn’t want to have associated with the game.

The fact that that it’s creepy as fuck isn’t the only reason to forbid the behavior; it simply underscores why the rule exists in the first place.

Like, we use so many military analogies with sports that it might not strike us as that odd to see athletes embrace military imagery.

We know this.

terell davis mile high salute.jpg

yankees camo hat

Man, you can barely even see the hat in that last picture, the way the camouflage makes it blend right in with its background. Very stealthy; a good hat to avoid calling attention to yourself, right?

Or, alternatively: It’s meant to communicate something else entirely.

So what happens when we see non-athletes do the same thing we’re used to seeing the athletes do.

As, for example, with this specific Turkish version of the salute.

This is clearly not OK.

It is, in fact, very, very bad.

And it’s not like anyone isn’t saying you can’t express yourselves at sport ball matches.

Just don’t be a jerk about what you express. Which means think about what you are communicating to others.

And maybe we find that we’re spreading some ideas when we didn’t even realize it. But that’s a good realization: It lays the foundation for doing better.

I’d love to offer some kind of scathing rebuke to international soccer federations, but they’re apparently doing about as well as NATO, I guess. And it’s a lot easier to find information on why FIFA is awful than it is on our somewhat more important international organizations.

Not that soccer isn’t important, of course.

And, certainly, it can express other things as well.

Joga bonito. Now that’s the stuff.

Dec 22 (1/1): The Beautiful Children of Syria

Meet Madge.

Here’s how I learned about Madge.

Cute kid.

So, like, I’m supposed to understand that Syria has taken a therapist once voted most beautiful boy in the whole country and put him in a cage? Am I understanding this correctly?

Majd Kamalmaz.jpg

New York Times: An American Disappeared in Syria 2 Years Ago. His Family Wants Trump to Help.

BEIRUT — Since disappearing in Syria nearly two years ago, an American therapist has missed the birth of one grandchild, then another.

His family in the United States does not know where he is, who is holding him, whether he has the diabetes medication he needs or even whether he is still alive. They have not spoken to him since he told them he was making a quick trip to Damascus from Lebanon to visit relatives in February 2017, packing little more than pajamas in his overnight bag.

OK, this is stupid and awful.

But the F.B.I. and the State Department, which had advised them to keep the case quiet, have made little progress in finding him, and Mr. Kamalmaz’s family now wants to promote the case, hoping to catch President Trump’s ear and encourage him to put the weight of his office behind efforts to free Mr. Kamalmaz.

Now that just isn’t right. They take their man, and then our government stifles their voice.

Maybe they got something they need to say. And maybe it’s something that needs saying.

It sucks to have to rely on others for something important. We lose all feeling of agency, of control over our own lives and our fates.

Needing people never sucks more than when you feel vulnerable.

“Isn’t the president of the United States one of the most powerful people in the world? We believe he can do it,” said Maryam Kamalmaz, one of Mr. Kamalmaz’s five children, in an interview. “Hopefully, President Trump can look through our ancestry and realize that we are American, we’re American citizens, my father is an American, and he needs to be brought home.”

So why is this guy in a Syrian secret torture prison?

A longtime clinical psychologist in Virginia and Texas, Mr. Kamalmaz had traveled the world as a one-man mental health clinic, offering free trauma therapy to survivors of Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Indonesian tsunami and the war in Kosovo.

He had come to the Middle East to do the same for refugees from the country of his birth, seeing and treating Syrians from both sides of the conflict at clinics he had opened in neighboring Lebanon.

“He was committed to helping all people — it didn’t matter which side they were on,” Ms. Kamalmaz said. “I think he felt a calling to go help the Syrian people as much as possible,” she added, “because it did hold a dear place in his heart.”

That explains nothing.

“He’s always said, ‘We are American, we have to give back to this society, because as Americans you love your country and you do what you can for your country,’” Ms. Kamalmaz said.

This is very frustrating.

Maybe they’re laying it on thick in the piece to try to get him back? I mean, Syria doesn’t actually have a guy like this in jail, right?

HeartMath? Um… interesting juxtaposition. Is that like the old “Army Intelligence” joke?

I can’t find any Wiki on the organization, but this is from the Wikipedia of the founder, Lew Childre.

Wikipedia: Lew Childre

Doc Lew Childre, Jr. (born September 7, 1945)[1] (pronounced “Chill-dree”)[2] is an American author[3] and the founder of the Heartmath Institute, a non-profit organization whose objective is to help the development of “heart-brain-coherence”. He works on child development and strategies for dealing with stress.

You have got to be fucking kidding me.

For real? This is a thing that happened? Is happening?

madge npr picture

NPR: Family Of American Jailed In Syria Goes Public In An Appeal To Trump

OK, my first though was: Does he always look like that? I feel like I could tell him anything. Hell, I want to tell him everything.

The answer is, basically, yes. There are more pictures in that piece. And it appears that he just exudes the gravitas of kind, patient love at all times. I’ve cruised around the internet; it’s borderline unsettling. He’s just actually like that.

And Syria has thrown him in jail. Secret torture jail, in fact.

The family of an American citizen believed to have been jailed in Syria two years ago is making his story public for the first time, spurred by President Trump’s announcement last month that he will withdraw U.S. troops from the country.

Majd Kamalmaz, a 61-year-old psychotherapist from Arlington, Va., arrived in Damascus on Feb. 15, 2017. He traveled to the Syrian capital for a condolence visit following the death of his father-in-law and to check on elderly relatives, according to his family. They say he was arrested at a checkpoint a day after he arrived.

“He felt safe going in. He’s an American citizen. He has nothing to do with politics. Why in the world would anyone try to harm him?” asked his daughter, Maryam Kamalmaz, from her home in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Family members say they have been working closely with the State Department for two years to locate Kamalmaz and secure his release.

In an email to NPR, a State Department spokesperson confirmed the U.S. government “is in regular contact with the family” but gave no further details “due to privacy considerations.”

Basically, the best part of this story is the incredibly low bar that his family still thinks he might be alive.

And they are keeping hope alive.

majd baby.jpg

The Czech ambassador in Damascus, Eva Filipi, confirmed that Kamalmaz was held in a Damascus prison soon after his arrest in 2017, according to the family. Filipi has represented U.S. interests in Syria since the U.S. withdrew its ambassador after the outbreak of the civil war.

Filipi named the particular jail where Kamalmaz was being held in Damascus and pledged to work for a speedy release, said Maryam Kamalmaz. But then, the trail went cold. “We did not hear from her again,” she said.

The family believes Kamalmaz is still alive and decided to make his case public now, she said, to make an appeal to President Trump as U.S. involvement in Syria winds down.

“I feel that President Trump has put a lot more effort than any other president in releasing detained citizens abroad,” said Maryam Kamalmaz. “Hopefully, he can bring our father home safely.”

So what’s the problem?

“The U.S. government has little credibility with the Syrian government and precious little leverage against it,” said Robert Ford, the last U.S. ambassador to serve in Syria.

So the US has no influence here. In a country at war. A war that our military is involved in.

That somehow doesn’t sound right.

Well, anyway, I dunno if he’s a Christian, but I do know that if Proverbs 25:21-22 and Romans 12:20 are at all accurate, then he must be driving the Syrians bug-fucking insane.

“He is a very special person,” she said. “If he’s in a prison, he is sending light to his captors, that’s how strong his energy is.”

This is not OK.

The most beautiful child of Syria—one of them anyway—is in prison.

Dec 21 (1/1): Poor Idlib

Everything in Idlib continues to be awful.

Now, there are two things at work here. One is that the relative calm in eastern Syria brings into sharp relief the violence conducted in the west.

The other is that it has gotten objectively more violent.

Assad’s regime forces, backed by Russian air power, have been softening the opposition for a major offensive against the various Turkish back militias, other various and sundry militant jihadi groups, and basically a bunch of other types that are more than I can keep track of, much less their alignments.

Now here’s the thing: Everybody knew this was coming. Everybody.

Which also means that, besides the constant air bombardment, the war in the west has progressed in rather predictable fashion for a few days now.

Which, in turn, means that, the whole war thing notwithstanding, a lot of the observers of the conflict get bored. And when they get bored, much like people not at war, they screw around.

In the particular case below, they’re screw around with the idea that literally everybody knows what is coming.

27547

Nothing like a good troll before the fighting starts, eh?

Which underscores, again, the fact that everybody knew this was coming.

So even the jihadis at whom this offensive was targeted knew it was coming. They apparently even whined about it.

And people also apparently knew that Turkey wasn’t going to back-up many of the anti-regime forces, mostly because Erdogan, despite depicting himself as leader of the Islamic revolution and actively exporting this crabbed version of the faith, doesn’t actually give a shit about their cause.

You can see the importance of the M5 here as its the major highway defining the conflict in the Idlib region (Idlib the city marked by the little red thingie).

map m5 idlib

So yeah, the Syrian opposition is getting smashed from the south and then also flanked from the east, so they’re getting squeezed.

There have been a ton of tweets absolutely raving about the success of this operation. Most of them are full of words that don’t really convey the feeling unless you read a bunch in a row.

I think it might be better summarized by this tweet.

It’s kinda like that.

So the pro-Assad types here—or, more accurately, against the anti-Assad opposition types (Turkish forces, terrorists, etc.); many of them aren’t particularly fond of ole lesser-of-two-evils Assad either—they started bored, which got them a bit restless and feisty, which steadily moved towards exuberance at the success of the operation.

Which briefly made me forget to ask a critical question:

Why the fuck are they doing this?

Like, everyone knew this was coming. The opposition knew it was coming. And everyone knew that the SAA forces were vastly superior and backed by a massive aerial bombardment from Russia.

So while following the discussion of the operation was kinda fun, the operation itself had the horrific outcomes that an assault like this necessarily produces.

140 air strikes? Jesus.

They didn’t have a chance. Which is sorta fine with me, since we’re talking about a lot of people who want to start a new caliphate of toxic masculinity and/or bring about the apocalypse and the war to end the world.

So yeah, they gotta go.

But then there’s all the ruined cities, villages, infrastructure for an economy and food and stuff, the land itself. And the people.

It probably goes without saying that the people don’t want this.

So, I’m not doing the whole “Why does war even exist?” thing here. War, unfortunately, makes a lot of rational sense, especially in how it so wildly benefits the few at the cost to the many.

While struggle can certainly be intimately connected to a way of life, this is not that.

The willingness to sacrifice oneself has been extolled as a great virtue, and rightly so. But too often the willingness to “risk it all” is emphasized.

The root of the word, though, is from the Latin for sacred.

Pointless risk is not sacred. To the truly faithful, it might basically technically be the opposite, because then you’re effectively denying to your god the possibility of further service.

That’s just dumb. I don’t think a lot is gained by equating suicide with sacrifice.

So this is awful. The destruction and suffering that we can see in real time to be completely without constructive purpose, since those choosing to commit destructive suicide-by-army could just opt to do something, well, better with their time on Earth.

Now, this may be a weird way of putting it, but I think we can see another level of how awful this arrangement is in the violence it does to noble concepts. Like with sacrifice above.

And maybe even to the very concept of human liberation itself.

Yeah. That at times may be necessary. But if that depicts liberation, we need to change a whole lot of things. Because that ain’t right.

Dec 20 (1/1): Rojava, Local Governance & Way of Life

The new “borders” between the various foreign forces of significance in northern Syria have solidified a bit. So that means hammering out an understanding of how things will work going forward.

Given the nature of the war at all levels—kinetic violence, economic, social, etc.—it makes sense that the cessation (or partial cessation) of shooting would only be a starting point.

To add to that context, though, it makes sense to remember what the Turkish backed militias (TFSA) have been contributing to the situation.

Guys like this.

Translation (German): The Turkish regime has been supporting Jihadist gangs in Syria for years through the secret service MIT and is trying to increase its influence. An ex-IS member reports about it! #Riseup4Rojava#DefendRojava

And they do the sorts of things guys like that do.

Translation (Kurdish): The occupying state and its gangs have targeted the M4 road and the villagers around the M4 road and are bombing Obus and Haryana …

These are basically the types of people that Erdogan not only uses, but is comfortable dealing with.

Now, given that context, consider that Turkey should obviously be expected to have strong ideas about what sorts of new social and political arrangements there will be, who will be involved, and who will lead.

Which is to say, Erdogan wants to rebuild northern Syria with his own men.

And it’s not like people haven’t noticed.

So it’s pretty clear that that group, proposed to lead and, indeed, be a critical social structure are not representative of the people, nor do they appear to be of the sort of people whom the locasl would choose.

Of course, this is consistent with the whole program of ethnic cleansing that includes not just the killing of the Kurds and other people who live there, but also the eradication of their social and cultural presence and replacement with other peoples.

Those salutes need to be addressed at some point.

Anyway, while the ethnic cleansing here is definitely an Erdogan thing, the attempt to control the social and political situation of an area under military control is basically Occupation 101.

In that same vein, Russia is organizing their own local militias in areas under their control as well.

It’s easier to control a local population if they, or at least some of them, cooperate. It just is.

It’s much easier, for example, than dealing with this all the time.

Of course, that raises the issue of who is helping and who is not—and who’s help the powers that be prefer to accept and use.

Now here’s the thing: Rojava is, was, and always has been about a specific, self-conscious approach to self-rule that involves cultivating a new and innovative form of politics that they believe in.

And now some people—entities of obvious power—are proposing their own social and political arrangements for the region.

So it makes sense that, while there are rich, sophisticated treatises on the subject of their politics, Rojava has put out a more simple introductory explanation.

It’s really, really interesting stuff. Like, I want to learn more, and I’m a little chagrined that I don’t already know more than I do.

Basically, it’s like James Madison’s constitutional system for America, but adapted to the 21st century.

Madison’s genius is to understand political factions, power, and freedom in new ways. Specifically, he thought actually trying to get rid of political factions was a bad idea because he reasoned that factions are actually a function of freedom: Free people develop new ideas and form factions.

Factions to Madison, therefore, are a necessary side effect of the good stuff.

So Madison concluded that, with respect to getting rid of faction as a “remedy, that it was worse than the disease,” (Federalist 10).

So that’s how he came up with the whole diffusion of power, destabilization of permanent majorities (to protect minorities), and separation of powers concepts for the US Constitution that he developed and explained so brilliantly in Federalist 10 and 51.

Of course, kinda a lot has happened since then.

Not only have our understandings changed since then, but people and how they interact has evolved over time as well. And even if they hadn’t, we’d expect to learn some things through the experience of trial and error.

Two of the biggest problems attending the Madisonian system have been:

  • The growing distance between the people and an increasingly powerful central government.
  • Preserving the voice of disadvantaged minorities who may consistently be neglected in the Madisonian system.

For the first problem, Rojava re-emphasized decentralization of government by institutionalizing localism in government—and the underlying theory is worthy of some prominent conservative American political thought.

Review of Politics: Reagan and That Unnamed Frenchman (De Tocqueville): On the Rationale for the New (Old) Federalism, Zuckert, Catherine (Vol 45 No 3 Jul 1983)

Popular demand will give rise to ever enlarged “popular government” unless individuals acquire both the self-confidence and the organizational skill to act on their own behalf. Decentralized political institutions do not restrict the powers of government and so protect individual liberty merely by dividing it up and making more decisions subject to local majorities. By making it possible for more citizens to participate in community decisions, decentralized political institutions foster private enterprise by teaching individuals not only how to associate but also how, through association, they can produce results. If Tocqueville is correct, the federal component of the Reagan administration’s program ought not to be viewed as merely another expression of a general conservative dislike for “big government,” much less a tactic to evade political responsibility. Decentralizing the administration of domestic social programs as much as possible may, on the contrary, be the essential means to Reagan’s larger goal of reinvigorating American enterprise. Spending reductions and tax cuts will not suffice, if enterprise depends upon attitudes and attitudes are shaped largely, if indirectly, by political institutions.

(FWIW: That’s a very serious, prominent, and incredibly smart conservative political theorist; I’m not just using it because it talks about Reagan. Though that might not be a bad reason if it were.)

So yeah, they sought to solve, or at least alleviate, the problems that come from big, centralized government through localism.

The second issue of representing the point of view of the marginalized has been a thorny one in the Middle East. Most political constitutions in the region have addressed the problem by guaranteeing specifically defined forms of representation to specific groups.

Of course, this just causes the groups to become more rigid and entrenched as they try to hold on to power. It’s some of the absolute worst in identity politics.

So instead, Rojava swapped out things like designated representation for religious and ethnic groups and swapped in guaranteed local offices for women in equal proportion to men as a way to to capture the point of view of those most likely to become politically dispossessed.

But, like, “capture” in a good way.

It works really well.

The only problem, of course, would be if they use it to pursue a plan of world domination.

I don’t think that’s a real concern.

But you can see how the struggle—a struggle between what Turkey wants to impose on the region and what these people might want for their own way of life—is very real.

Dec 19 (1/1): Divinity, Normalcy & Struggle

It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but the bold reserve of Kurdistan in northern Iraq has been showing.

Frankly, they haven’t been doing much. And that’s sorta the point.

Like, the very lion’s share of the very possibility of the mundane stems from the maintenance of a certain level of order and stability. Under trying circumstances, the opportunity simply to be bored can be a remarkable achievement.

And that’s the goal not just of Kurdistan, of northern Iraq, of Iraq, the Middle East, or even liberal democracies: To create the kind of order where that is possible.

Not to be bored, I mean. I’m talking about opportunity here.

Certainly, the goal is human flourishing. But mundanity is the flip side to that coin; each is only made possible by having in place a system that works—that even makes it possible—and a Hobbesian state of indeterminacy ain’t it.

So while there has been all sorts of interesting political machinations large and small going on that speak to an attempt at a healthy polity in northern Iraq, the best part has been watching the regular sorts of stuff they’ve actually come up with lately.

Recalling that foreign actors such as Turkey and Iran are actively trying to draw them into conflict, it’s been remarkable to see stuff like this.

They’re surrounded by Turkey who is still actively trying to kill all Kurds, Iran who wants to take over, political instability to the south within the state of Iraq of which they are still a part, and Syria which every flavor of ill-intent in the world seems determined to turn into a shit show, and they’re still focusing on things like drug rehab and art therapy.

I want to learn more of the history here.

So yeah, even though I know it’s not “the point” per se, but it feels like northern Iraq has been doing its darndest to show everyone in the region just how gosh darn normal they’ve been being in the midst of all this crap.

It doesn’t have to be an intentional attempt at being a beacon of liberal democracy and whatever that will become to the world. But if it works, it can’t help but be.

That’s just how it works.

Lord knows that’s what the people to their south want. And that’s why, while the images of people getting married or throwing back tear gas canisters at the kind of people who fire tear gas canisters at people are inspiring, no less inspiring, albeit more subtle, should be the stories of the protesters doing the plain, regular stuff that makes it all work.

Setting up institutions to support their new civil society, such as the tuk-tuk cabs to ferry out the wounded and the news paper that bears their name, for example.

Manning the barricades is obviously critical. Logisitics and support—technical and humane—are less glamorous but no less vital.

Stuff like this.

And perhaps less obviously, this.

And at this point, to anyone who understands the mission, it should be no surprise that our friends at Operation Inherent Resolve get in on the action whenever they can too.

So yeah, this is great stuff. A strong attempt at healthy politics. Wonderful policies to promote the public welfare. And just some basic good living stuff.

And it’s fantastic messaging, of course, to anyone who wonders if stuff like this is even possible anymore. Not the point, but as per above, it can’t help but be.

So yeah, great messaging. But this stuff cracked me up.

Wait, there’s more! There’s video!!

Ah yeah. That’s the stuff. That’s some good, healthy democracy problems right there.

Which is why I love that stuff. I remember when a friend of mine in college—student government president at the time—saw our dean of students at what some of us considered to be a misguided protest and asking him if he actually supported it.

He responded: I just like seeing people protest.

That’s always stuck with me. Even if it’s annoying at times, it’s at worst a symptom of good things. At others, it is something much more vital.

Which makes me think of the other attempts at a kind of “normalcy” under adverse conditions that is also inspiring, but also inspiring for its attempt to be business as usual.

That is to say, the resilience with which the people of the region, affected not just by this conflict but those that came before like the war on ISIS (as though that’s over), the Syrian civil war, the instability in Iraq, the Iraq War, coups, Iraq War I, the Iran-Iraq War—I get fuzzy on the history pretty quickly actually.

Anyway, the point isn’t to fight, it is to endure. And to endure in this sense is not only to survive, but to pursue a way of life—to insist on the need to flourish, even should the attempt fail.

There has been a great deal of that to see, to draw upon, and to take inspiration from. But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the point is not just to live, but to live well.

And to do anything well requires practice, not to say, a practice.

Which I suppose is why this caught my attention and gave me pause to reflect.

It’s not just a religion; now it’s also a form of resistance. But it’s not conducted to resist.

It’s conducted for its own sake.

The two kinda become the same thing. But even still, resistance conducted for the sake of religion may be noble, but religion conducted for the sake of resistance will soon turn grotesque.

In that vein, there’s been a lot of celebration of the Yazidi lately. In large measure, this is due to the place their enslavement at the hands of ISIS holds in the war. But that place in history is itself a function of the Yazidi, as a people, being oppressed, slaughtered, and enslaved for just trying to do their thing.

We can use all sorts of weightier terms like, “to practice their religion,” or “to follow their way of life,” but sometimes I think that makes us lose sight of what we mean. As though someone needs a reason of great gravitas to try to rightly.

Though it is all that too.

And so they celebrate that stuff. But they also celebrate that fundamental point: The point that the Yazidi are still just doing their thing.

A thing they’ve been doing for a very long time.

Kurdistan24: On eve of Yezidi holiday, Kurdish leader vows continued support

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On the eve of a Yezidi (Ezidi) holiday that follows three days of fasting, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) promised on Thursday to work for the welfare of the Ezidis and continue attempts to rescue those that were kidnapped when the Islamic State took over territory populated by members of the religious community.

“I warmly congratulate our Ezidi brothers and sisters for the Ezidi fasting Eid, wishing to celebrate this day in a calm and joyful atmosphere,” said Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a statement.

The holiday, known as Rozhen Eizidi, often occurs on different days of the year as it is calculated on the Ezidi calendar, which is nearly 7,000 years old.

The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Iraq’s Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) in August 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the community and the killing of scores more, now recognized by the United Nations as an act of genocide.

Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region while others resettled in neighboring countries or Western states.

Militants subjected women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.

Before the 2014 attack, there were roughly 550,000 Ezidis in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. As the militant group took over large swaths of territory in Iraq’s Nineveh province, 360,000 Ezidis escaped and found refuge elsewhere, according to the KRG’s Ezidi Rescue Office.

The autonomous Kurdish region has often been applauded for its religious tolerance and coexistence, considered a sanctuary for minority groups in Iraq and neighboring countries.

Barzani continued, “THe KRG will continue to serve our Ezidi brothers and sisters. Furthermore, we will carry out the task of working to ensure their rights under the slogan of religious and ethnic coexistence that the Kurdistan Region is privileged to be a part of.”

“We will do everything in our power to rescue kidnapped Ezidis and ensure a safe and honorable return for those who were displaced.”

One week ago, thousands of Ezidis who live at the Sardasht displacement camp on Mount Shingal have called for basic humanitarian aid as winter began taking its toll on residents.

Read More: Yezidis at Mount Sinjar camp call for solution to humanitarian situation

The camp was constructed in 2014 with 2,300 tents. There are currently 14,300 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and victims who survived at the hands of the Islamic that live there.

“I plead with the government, the humanitarian community, and the relative sides to come to our aid,” an elderly man told Kurdistan 24. “We only request water, electricity, basic humanitarian aid, and a doctor.”

Editing by John J. Catherine

For anyone who’s watched the first season of Jack Ryan, early in the season, there’s a scene where the main bad guy is having dinner at his home in Idlib. A woman in a burka serves him his supper and withdraws. As she walks away, he says to the guy next to him that she’s not a bad cook for a Yazidi.

I didn’t get the reference the first time I watched it.

So it goes.

And so it does.

Yazda.org: A statement from Yazda on the occasion of the Yazidi fasting days

A statement from Yazda on the occasion of the Yazidi fasting days

This Monday, December 16th, 2019, Yazidis in various parts of the world will begin to observe the Rojit Ezi- a three day holy fast, followed by the fourth day of celebration. The Yazda family congratulates all the world’s Yezidis on this important religious occasion and prays that the fasting will be accepted to merit the end of this era of tragedy, suffering, and genocide that has been ongoing since August 2014.

During these auspicious days, we must show our solidarity with the victims of the Yazidi genocide and their families. In particular, we must keep in mind the 2,800 Yazidi women and children who remain missing despite the passage of over a years’ time since ISIS’s military defeat in Iraq and Syria.

We reiterate our call to all relevant authorities to make more efforts to return the kidnapped Yazidis to their families. We call on them to take any and all appropriate steps to ensure the safe return of the displaced Yazidis in IDP camps to their homes. This will require economic and security measures that include the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Yazidi areas and the provision of adequate security.

Furthermore, we call on the Iraqi authorities to provide just compensation to affected Yazidis for their losses, namely the psychological and material damages inflicted upon them in the course of the genocide. Additionally, to emphasize the importance of achieving justice, the perpetrators and collaborators of the genocide must be brought to justice in a court of law. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the international community to establish a special and neutral international court with the jurisdiction to prosecute the more than 20,000 ISIS militants and supporters currently detained in Iraq and Syria.

In these special days of fasting and observance, we once again pledge that Yazda will remain the cornerstone of the Yazidi cause, and will be first in line to support any persecuted minorities. We will continue to work on the various approaches that we started in 2014 to continue to inform the world about the Yazidi genocide and minority struggles, and to support the processes of justice both nationally and internationally. We will continue to advocate for the Yazidis and other at-risk minorities, and continue Yazda’s vital humanitarian projects, including the support of the victims and survivors of the genocide.

It bears noting that that last tweet came from someone who also tweeted this.

That’s the stuff.

Dec 18 (1/1): Erdogan’s Mediterranean Misadventures

It seems like Erdogan must already be fighting everyone by now, and then he manages to step it up a notch.

As in, that maritime pact with Libya is turning out to be an emerging conflict encompassing the whole eastern Mediterranean.

As though this didn’t have bad action movie written all over it already, there has been a repeat iteration recreation of the scene in the beginning of Top Gun where the pilots engage one another but don’t fire.

ekathimerini: Turkish jets trigger 16 mock dogfights

Turkey ratcheted up tensions in the Aegean on Tuesday with Turkish jets conducting multiple violations of Greek airspace, leading to 16 mock dogfights, and Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay declaring that Ankara could send forces to the Eastern Mediterranean.

Turkish jets conducted 40 airspace violations, obliging Greek jets to engage in mock dogfights on 16 occasions, Greek defense sources said.

The barrage of violations was believed to have been spurred by comments by Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, according to which Greece has military supremacy in the Aegean.

Also on Tuesday there were reports of five Turkish Navy vessels south of Kastellorizo.

Oktay added fuel to the fire by saying that, “if necessary, Turkey will send forces, drill in the Eastern Mediterranean [and] conduct cross-border operations.”

“Mock dogfights”?

OK, I even get that, but how are “cross-border operations” not an invasion? An invasion drill is an invasion.

So this action is but one highly visible manifestation of a much larger upsetting of whatever balance has existed in the eastern Mediterranean Ocean.

Or, more specifically: Turkey is upsetting the balance through military assertion with cutting edge right wing totalitarian jerkwad tactics.

Forbes: An Aggressive Turkey Is Raising Risks Of Conflict In The Mediterranean Sea

As maritime observers fret over the South China Sea, The Baltic Sea and the Persian Gulf, the placid Mediterranean Sea is hurtling towards the precipice. This crisis has been almost entirely off the geopolitical radar, but over the past year, the lure of petrochemical riches has upended maritime order in Mediterranean waters. A resurgent Turkey, equipped with a dominant regional navy, has fine-tuned Chinese gray-zone tactics to seize a disproportionate swath of the Mediterranean. Turkey has signaled that it will use force to alter regional maritime norms, and a maritime confrontation seems inevitable.

Earlier this year, Turkey tested similar tactics the Chinese have used to impose control over the South China Sea. When experiments in using naval forces to escort Turkish drill ships into contested waters and to block rival petrochemical exploration vessels were met with little protest, Turkey simply moved the goalposts. Emboldened by somnolent America and European reactions, Turkey moved quickly to redefine the Mediterranean’s maritime borders. Earlier this month, Turkey concluded a massive maritime land-grab, entering into a maritime border agreement with Libya’s besieged government that cedes much of the resource-rich eastern Mediterranean to Turkish control.

So Turkey is just cruising in to other people’s territory with military stuff and saying it’s theirs? This sounds familiar.

And Turkey is doing this with basically everyone in the region.

Adding to the tension, Israel, which hopes to join Cyprus and Greece in building an undersea natural gas pipeline to Europe, was cautioned by Turkish authorities that any third party must seek Turkish approval for the new pipeline. Turkey’s foreign minister warned that Turkey could use military force to prevent unauthorized economic activity off Cyprus. At the same time, Turkey is holding the U.S. and EU hostage by threatening to close Incirlik Air Base and a critical radar station in Kurecik.

Oh yeah, Erdogan’s been threatening the US air base and the NATO radar station in Turkish territory that watches Iran to get more leverage against the West here as well.

Nobody’s surprised that Greece has been signaling that they would be thrilled to host the US bases if things don’t work out with Turkey. They’ve been pretty interested in our military stuff of late.

So who else has Erdogan been tangoing with?

Two weeks ago, Turkish naval units, imposing authority upon a contested area off Cyprus, forced the Bat Galim, an Israeli vessel affiliated with the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute, out of Cyprus’ territorial waters. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Bat Galim was “doing research approved by the Government of Cyprus in Cyprus’ territorial waters.”

In response, naval forces from France, Italy and Cyprus conducted an exercise inside the Republic of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone. Independently, Israeli jets buzzed Turkish drill ships near Cyprus this weekend, and, as Israeli F-16Is, F-35s and F-15s demonstrated their reach, naval as well as air force units are rumored to be ready to escort the Bat Galim back into Cyprus waters. In turn, Turkey announced that, according to The Times, weapons-ready Bayraktar TB2 reconnaissance drones would be operating from the Gecitkale airbase in northern Cyprus to assist the drill ships by December 16. True to schedule, the first of these drones landed in Northern Cyprus at 7 AM GMT on Monday.

So everyone’s here to dance.

So basically, while there is frequently more saber rattling among states than really is appropriate given the stakes, even on a good day, increasingly, no body thinks this is just business as usual.

Things are changing.

Times of Israel: In blow to Turkey, US Congress ends decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus
Senators who spearheaded bill say they hope move will foster cooperation between the Mediterranean island nation, Greece and Israel

“With Cyprus seeking to deepen its strategic partnership with the United States, it is in our national security and economic interest to lift this outdated decades-long arms restrictions that are no longer helping US security objectives,” Menendez said after initial approval of the lifting of the embargo.

While the two Cypriot communities have made progress in improving relations, tensions have spiked over an accord between Turkey and Libya for newly discovered gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean, undercutting claims by Greece and the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus.

And, just for good measure.

So this is all clearly spectacular.

top gun head to head.gif

 

So that’s one end of this Mediterranean Turkish military adventure. Now let’s check in on the other end.

Libya

In Libya, people continue to make fun of Turkey’s crappy equipment.

So that’s kinda funny. Especially when they take selfies.

But on the other hand, Libya really is difficult to sort out as it is such a mess even compared to other conflict zones. It has a kind of Jackass: The Movie gone horribly wrong, but not in a funny way kind of vibe.

Like, take this video. Spoiler alert: The truck blows up.

And bad as things are there, Turkey’s new pact with the GNA in Tripoli makes it even more of a shady person congregation point than it’s already been.

And everybody understands that Turkey’s presence there is making things much, much worse.

US News & World Report: UN Experts: Libya Is New Focus of Islamic State Extremists

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say the interference of Chadian and Sudanese fighters in Libya is “a direct threat” to the security and stability of the war-torn country, which a leader of the Islamic State extremist group has declared “one of the main axes” of its future operations.

The panel of experts said in a 376-page report to the U.N. Security Council released Tuesday that the presence of the Chadians and Sudanese “has become more marked” in 2019 as a result of the intensification of the conflict in Libya. It said their continued presence as organized groups or as mercenaries “may lead to further instability.”

Hifter launched a surprise military offensive April 4 aimed at capturing Tripoli despite commitments to attend a national conference weeks later aimed at forming a united government and moving toward elections. Fighting for Tripoli has stalled in recent months, with both sides dug in and shelling one another along the city’s southern reaches with increasingly sophisticated weapons.

While the LNA and the eastern government enjoy the support of France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries, the Tripoli-based government is backed by Italy, Turkey and Qatar.

“Jordan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates routinely and sometimes blatantly supplied weapons, with little effort to disguise the source” in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, the report said.

So this is like an Idlib kind of situation where there’s just tons and tons of different types of people who want to fight here, but more diverse with more diverse interests and intensified.

armageddon scariest environment imaginable.gif

The experts said counter-terrorism operations in Libya against Islamic State and al-Qaida extremists by the government and Hifter’s forces, and an increase in activity by the United States Africa Command, continue to disrupt the structure of both groups and temporarily reduce their capacity to conduct operations.

But the panel also reported the new focus on Libya by the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, quoting a video in July by an Islamic State leader in Libya, Mahmud Massud al-Baraassi, also known as Abu Musab Allibi. In the video, the report said, “he highlighted that Libya was now one of the main axes of future ISIL operations, which are designed to compensate for the loss of ground” in Syria.

“ISIL in Libya finances its activities through robbery, kidnap for ransom, extortion of Libyan citizens and the cross-border smuggling of artifacts and other commodities,” the panel said. “Taxation of human trafficking networks continues to be a source of funding for ISIL in Libya.”

It would make sense that ISIS would want to get in on an area where human trafficking is a growth industry.

So, as always, there’s microeconomic factors and big macro-global politics all at once.

The Associated Press reported last week that Libyan government officials plan to confront Moscow over the alleged deployment of Russian mercenaries fighting alongside Hifter’s LNA. U.S. officials also accuse Russia of deploying fighters through a private security contractor to key battleground areas in Libya in the past months.

And so Erdogan is going to push to escalate things here.

Of course, the concerns with Libya are obviously not really about whether or not the GNA or LNA will prevail, but who will control the oil and the strategic location.

Which is to say, the conflict could still grow. And spread.

It’s concern enough that the prime minister of the GNA is meeting with Italy.

And Gen. Haftar who leads the GNA army will too.

So Turkey is engaged in non-contact Fighting Falcon sparring over the Aegean with Greece as part of embroiling the eastern Med into conflict, while further immersing itself into the military conflict in Libya that threatens here again southern Europe by way of Italy.

And this all while trying to murder Kurds in Rojava, bomb Kurds in northern Iraq, smash Syria into submission, and basically mess up the whole Middle East?

Anything else? Maybe stalk an old fling?

So now they’re buzzing the Armenians. Bitter about the US Congress’s resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, much?

Makes Erdogan mad. But, the thing about that is:

You’d think saber rattling at the Armenians would round out Erdogan’s basic evil guy dance card, but no.

I mean, remember Turkey mixing it up with Israel above?

And then who knows what kind of unpleasantness he might contemplate in his moments of down-time from working to undermine civilization?

Ahval: Tempted by Chinese investment, Erdoğan is silent on Uighurs

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan presents himself as a fierce defender of oppressed Muslims worldwide, but he has been muted when it comes to the Uighurs in western China.

Even while global condemnation of China’s repressive policies in Xinjiang has increased, Erdoğan has remained largely silent on the issue. His lack of support for the Uighurs is evidently down to his desire to build stronger economic ties with China as a result of Turkey’s deteriorating relationships with the United States and Europe.

“Turkey under Erdoğan has consistently stood with the Chinese oppressors,” Salih Hudayar, the founder and president of East Turkistan National Awakening Movement, told Ahval. He said this was making “Uighurs across the world lose hope, not only in Turkey, but also the Islamic world.” Other Muslim countries have also been hesitant to speak out.

The Uighurs are a Muslim people, speaking a Turkic language related to that spoken in Turkey.

“Although Erdoğan and his administration have been silent on East Turkistan,” the name Uighurs use for Xinjiang, Hudayar said, “Turkey’s people and other opposition parties like the Good party have been actively speaking out against China’s oppression of Uighurs.”

Erdoğan’s near silence on the issue of the Uighurs comes despite his alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which espouses Pan-Turkism, the ideal of uniting the Turkic peoples of Anatolia and Central Asia.

So Erdogan can’t even present himself as the great leader of militant nationalist Islamo-fascism without selling out for money?

die hard common thief.gif

Yeah, I guess that scans.

Dec 17 (1/1): Brexit, Turkey, ISIS & the Rise of Russia

tl;dr: Putin and Turkey have Europe surrounded and you don’t’ have to be that racist to be concerned that Erdogan might release ISIS terrorists under his influence into Europe. In this context, many peoples around the world are finding it preferable to cozy up with other right wingers in the world, close up shop, and become Fortress (Western) Europe and leave the rest of the world to fend for itself against Russia and China and hope that Putin, Erdogan, et alia will actually leave them alone.

First, consider that Russia, both through its own dealings and by extension through its new client state Turkey, has a strangle hold on European energy distribution.

Now consider a map of Europe from which we can work out how Putin very literally has Europe surrounded, which helps to explain the state of siege Europeans are feeling that I don’t think Americans really grasp. Lord knows I didn’t until I watched some people I like and respect lose their minds over Brexit.

Maps help.

map europe tripoli

That red mark is Tripoli in Libya. As part of Erdogan’s efforts to expand Turkey’s influence over the Middle East and the transportation of its energy, Turkey has entered into a strategic partnership with the GNA government in Tripoli.

Under this agreement, Erdogan has claimed the legal right to send military support despite international treaties. Turkey has sent equipment and troops; a lot of it was promptly blown up, but suffice to say the struggle for control of Libya is intensifying.

Russia started sending mercenaries there a few months ago through the Wagner Group and appears to be supporting the LNA against the GNA, so there may be some tension between Russia and Turkey here. Or it just might be Putin’s predilection for making a mess that other people have to sort out.

Now, consider Russia and Turkey’s strategic partnership, as represented in Turkey’s purchase of the S-400 air defense system from Russia.

Russia’s pitch to the world for the S-400 right now is that air supremacy is the key to US intervention abroad, so effective air defense is the key to self-defense, and Russia is prepared to offer the system to anyone who wants it to resist the West, for which they get not just money, but strategic influence and hard data intelligence on any air craft the system engages anywhere, which will radically improve its effectiveness against US aircraft over time.

Turkey’s purchased the S-400 from Russia and has threatened to purchase more. So this isn’t a missile system; it is a strategic with Russia against the Europe and the United States.

This is what the NATO summit was really all about: Whether or not NATO would stand up to Turkey and its new self-assertions and alliances in the world.

What Turkey holds over Europe is his threat to release refugees from the Syrian conflict, a population widely believed to have been heavily infiltrated by ISIS, into Europe.

No resolution was achieved, but NATO definitely blinked, and fundamentally demurred.

So NATO backed down not just on Erdogan’s ethnic cleansing of the Kurds in Syria, but on fundamental global strategic alliances with and against Europe, over Turkish control of the gateway to Europe from the Middle East.

The gateway to Europe from Africa is Tripoli.

MSNBC: Damned for Trying
A massive wave of migration is crashing through North Africa, but there is only one major gateway to Europe — and it’s through Libya.

The largest flow of modern African migration funnels through a single country — Libya.

libya-map.gif

We know that militant jihadis, even those that don’t get along with each other as with al Queda and ISIS, are taking marching orders from Erdogan. We know Erdogan is cultivating his status as a religious leader for radical nationalist Islam both in Turkey and abroad.

And we know that Turkey is in a strategic partnership with Russia and now with Libya, specifically in Tripoli.

And we know Russia has been planning on weaponizing immigration against the West for some time.

US News & World Report: Russia Positioning Itself in Libya to Unleash Migrant Crisis Into Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to be capitalizing on ways immigration can destabilize Western countries.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin suggested to the West last month that the widening chaos in Libya after almost a decade of war should have been obvious: “A flow of migrants went through Libya to Europe,” he said in an interview, recalling the displacement of refugees that has reached crisis levels in recent years. “They have what they were warned about.”

This week, The New York Times documented the deployment into Libya of Russian mercenaries. While Moscow denies its involvement, the situation mirrors tactics it has successfully employed in Syria and Ukraine to gain influence in chaotic war zones by dispatching private forces Putin can disavow until the point of victory.

Now, I don’t want to get too far afield from Europe here, but it probably won’t come as a huge surprise at this point that, while some debate as to whether or not this is more bark than bite, Russia has made moves to assert military control over the arctic and its natural resources.

CNN: Inside the military base at the heart of Putin’s Arctic ambitions

Situated in a vast landscape of blinding white above the Arctic Circle, the Kotelny base is closer to Alaska than to Moscow. It is one of three new Russian bases above the 75th parallel, part of a larger push by Russian President Vladimir Putin to flex his country’s military muscle across its massive Arctic coastline. The Russian military says it has built 475 military sites in the past six years, spanning from the country’s western frontier with NATO borders to the Bering Strait in the east

Oh look. Turkish media. That’s cute.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that Russia has recently engaged in a bunch of strategic security and information sharing agreements with China.

South China Morning Post: Russian TV production echoes China’s line on Hong Kong protests

“Moscow is demonstrating that it’s ready to stand by Beijing on the global stage, in terms of this media war of competing narratives on what’s going on in Hong Kong. The West has its narrative, but Russia and China are presenting their own,” Lukin said.

“Recently, they have this common adversary – the United States – and one of the fronts in their rivalry or competition with the US is the mass media front.”

China and Russia have been teaming up online as well.

In October, the countries signed a cooperation agreement aimed at combating illegal content on the internet. There have also been at least two Russia-China online media forums since September involving news media and government representatives.

China has also recently asserted a claim to being a “near arctic” country.

But this is heading into even bigger game stuff and I don’t want to distract from the Russia-Turkey-Europe thing.

So yeah, let’s just peak back at that map.

map europe tripoli

Europe is surrounded at multiple levels of engagement, which really is so Russian if you think about it.

We’ve long known that racism can be used as a weapon in politics. It is now clear that right wing governments, using the logic and realities of the global war on terror, have weaponized racism at the international level.

Moreover, they are using that weapon as political leverage against the liberal democracies of the West. And for a Russia who’s economy isn’t as strong as it might be, it can be done on the cheap through Turkish and ISIS proxies and online information campaigns.

The benefits that accrue to Erdogan are obvious, as this promotes Turey’s acquisition of energy resources and distribution networks in the eastern Mediterranean and Libya, while also increasing his leverage against Europe by controlling the spigots to a potential refugee crisis for Europe.

So this is the context for Brexit. NATO has already demurred. England just voted not to engage.

For those of us who are Americans, our referendum is in November.

Dec 16 (1/1): Erdogan’s Adventures in Libya

Rundown: Turkey made a pact with the Government of National Accord (GNA) which holds Tripoli but little of the rest of territorial Libya as compared to their opposition, the Libyan National Army (LNA) led by Gen. Haftar. This pact Turkey is making is basically to dominate the eastern Mederanean, ostensibly for energy development and pipelines in the sea, though Turkey has larger designs and Libya holds enormous strategic importance in the area in addition to exploitable natural resources of its own. As part of the pact, Turkey indicated a willingness to send troops to Libya if asked, despite international sanctions against Libya, and, ultimately, Turkey did just that, in the form of equipment and troops.

As per usual, it seems Turkey as been exporting terrorists to the situation which Erdogan now seeks to exploit.

Ahval: Mercenaries arrived from Turkey to Libya’s Misrata, says LNA spokesperson

The spokesperson of the Libyan National Army (LNA) has said that “a number of foreign terrorists and mercenaries” arrived on Friday at the country’s Misrata airport from Turkey.

“The terrorists arrived via the Libyan Wings Airline, owned by Islamist militant Abdelhakim Belhaj, to join Fayez al-Sarraj militias in their fights against the LNA,” Libyan Address Journal quoted Khalid Al-Mahjoub, spokesperson of the LNA’s Tripoli Operations Room, as saying on Saturday.

The claim arrives amid a string of accusations against Turkey of funding and arming Islamist factions in Libya fighting on the side of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).

Of course, at this point, everyone accuses everyone else of being terrorist. Erdogan, however, has a long track-record of using militant jihadis in this way.

As usual when a conflict makes the news these days, we discover all sorts of other countries have had their grubby paws all over it for some time now. Mostly middle eastern nations like Turkey and Qatar, but also Europe.

I mean, the Russians are all over it, obviously—it’s what they do.

Al Jazeera: Libyan officials cite evidence of Russian mercenaries in war
Libyan and US officials accuse Moscow of deploying private contractors to key battleground areas for General Haftar.

“Russian influence has done only two things: inflate their size and spectre of their power in Libya. They’re not positively engaged or trying to play a constructive role with diplomatic or political value.”

Oh those whacky Russians.

“Putin would like nothing more than to keep Europe busy and divided over Libya, scared of illegal immigration, paralysed by right-wing populism that threatens the very idea of the EU,” said Mohammed Eljareh, an analyst who runs Libya Outlook, a consulting company on Libyan affairs.

And, of course, everyone else seems to be crawling around Libya too.

Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the GNA receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy.

So, subsequent to the new maritime pact with Libya, Erdogan has announced Turkey’s willingness to enter more fully the war in Libya.

So it’s going to be a total mess.

South Front: Is Libya the New Syria?

The GNA is currently defending from an offensive that the Libyan National Army (LNA), headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar that began on April 4th, 2019 and is on behalf of the Libyan House of Representatives, located in Benghazi. Russia is one of the LNA’s supporters.

Erdogan claimed that the call for Turkish forces may be in response to the alleged presence of the mythical Russian mercenaries the “Wagner Group.”

“You know that Russia has the Wagner group. Russia sent these security forces to Libya. If Libya asks us for military support (especially after signing an agreement on military cooperation), then we will send a sufficient number of our people in the same way.”

The Wagner Group is a favorite topic of MSM and it is typically tied to Russian businessmen Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is its alleged founder and allegedly runs the PMC. Prigozhin has repeatedly said that he has nothing to do with the so-called Wagner Group and that there’s no such thing.

“I wish that the matter of Haftar would not create a new Syria in our relations with Russia,” Erdogan said.

Greece is also unsatisfied with the agreements Turkey signed with the GNA.

So this agreement between Libya and Turkey pisses off almost everybody, not just Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt. Although the ability of some of these states to compartmentalize is substantial.

Anyway, Turkey promptly started moving military equipment in, though with at best mixed reviews.

Then came news that additional military cargo Turkey was sending in had, well, been blown up.

But those tactical hiccups do not appear to have deterred Erdogan from his larger plans for the conflict.

The Guardian: Turkey renews military pledge to Libya as threat of Mediterranean war grows
Ankara ready to defend government in Tripoli in latest policy to inflame tensions with US, EU, Greece and Middle East countries

The threat of a military clash in the Mediterranean has drawn nearer following talks in which Turkey has underlined its willingness to send troops to Libya to defend the country’s UN-recognised government.

Such a move would risk a direct military confrontation with General Khalifa Haftar, the eastern Libyan military warlord who is thought to be planning a decisive assault on the government of national accord in Tripoli, or GNA. Either the UAE or Egypt, which are supporting Haftar’s forces, might also become involved.

Turkey, already at loggerheads with the US Congress and EU on multiple fronts, last week signed a military co-operation agreement with GNA that enables it to request troops from Turkey. The agreement, sent to the Turkish parliament on Saturday, provides for a so-called quick reaction force for police and military in Libya, as well as enhanced cooperation on intelligence and defence.

That whole piece is a really good run down of everything up to about now.

But anyway, it looks like Turkey is all in.

But beyond that, Libya has been such a mess for so long, it’s hard to discern what immediate effects this is having, even with the increased focus people are giving the conflict.

He’s right. (“Technicals” are those pick-up trucks with big guns in the back.)

But we know it’s bad. It’s, like, guys getting drugged up and running into combat bad.

OK, doing a handspring into battle has a certain panache. But yeah, this is bad.

So Turkey has expanded its efforts for territorial domination of the eastern Mediterranean and general region. Success here gets Turkey both possession of the energy resources in the area and its distribution, but also the Gateways to Europe, control of which is what Erdogan in turn holds as political leverage over Europe to force their acquiescence to his plans.

Dec 15 (1/1): Turkish Religion in Germany

So apparently Erdogan uses religion in creepy ways in other countries. This had not occurred to me as a thing.

I mean, I understood how he uses religion in creepy ways in his own country. where he’s set himself up as some kind of Nazi prophet or something. I just didn’t realize he used it to extend his creepy fascist tentacles to other countries through his international state sponsored religion.

But, once again, I guess it makes sense. Awful, horrible sense, but sense nonetheless.

So this is the entrance to the rabbit hole that came across my Twitter feed.

ANF: Germany: War propaganda by religious associations “unacceptable”

DIE LINKE asked the federal government about its support for religious associations such as DITIB for the war of aggression in northern Syria, which is carried out in violation of international law.

On the occasion of Turkey’s illegal war of aggression against Northern Syria, the Turkish religious authority Diyanet called for victory prayers for the Turkish troops in the country’s mosques. The authority, whose religious officials also act as imams in mosques of the Islamic associations DITIB, ATIB and Milli Görüş in the Federal Republic of Germany, sent a Friday sermon in which it literally said: “Help our heroic army, which has started a campaign for the security of our country”. In mosques of Turkish Islamic associations such as DITIB and Milli Görüş in Germany, prayers were also held for a victory for the Turkish army.

Jelpke: Visas for such religious officials should be withdrawn

Ulla Jelpke, the spokeswoman for domestic policy of the parliamentary group DIE LINKE, asked the federal government about these events. The federal government described the attempted influence of Diyanet imams in Germany to support Turkish military intervention in Syria as “unacceptable”. Jelpke demanded: “However, it should not remain only with admonitory words. If foreign religious officials use their professional position to support their government’s war of aggression in violation of international law, their work visas should be withdrawn immediately.”[/QUOTE]

Highly partisan Kurdish source, yes. But based on what we’ve seen, it definitely seems worth investigating. I mean—

Turkey has a “religious authority”?

As it happens: Yep.

Wikipedia: Directorate of Religious Affairs

In Turkey, the Directorate of Religious Affairs (TurkishDiyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, normally referred to simply as the Diyanet) is an official state institution established in 1924 under article 136 of the Constitution of Turkey by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey as a successor to the Shaykh al-Islām after the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate.[1]

As specified by law, the duties of the Diyanet are “to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshiping places”.[2] The Diyanet drafts a weekly sermon delivered at the nation’s 85,000 mosques and more than 2,000 mosques abroad that function under the directorate. It provides Quranic education for children and trains and employs all of Turkey’s imams, who are technically considered civil servants.[3] It has been criticized for ignoring the Islamic creed of the 33–40% of Turkey’s population that is not Hanafi Sunni Muslim.[4]

Started from 2006 the Diyanet was “beefed up”, and by 2015 its budget had increased fourfold,[5][6] and staff doubled to nearly 150,000.[5] In 2012 Diyanet TV was activated,[4] now broadcasting 24 hours a day.[5] It has expanded Quranic education to early ages and boarding schools – “enabling the full immersion of young children in a religious lifestyle”[4] – and now issues fatawa on demand.

Do we even want to know what a “Shaykh al-Islam” is in this case? Or can we just guess?

Wikipedia: In the Ottoman Empire (Sub-section of above)

In the Ottoman empire, which controlled much of the Sunni Islamic world from the 14th to the 20th centuries, the Grand Mufti was given the title Sheikh ul-islam (Ottoman Turkish: Şeyḫülislām‎). The Ottomans had a strict hierarchy of ulama, with the Sheikh ul-Islam holding the highest rank. A Sheikh ul-Islam was chosen by a royal warrant amongst the qadis of important cities. The Sheikh ul-Islam had the power to confirm new sultans, but once the sultan was affirmed, it was the sultan who retained a higher authority than the Sheik ul-Islam. The Sheikh ul-Islam issued fatwas, which were written interpretations of the Quran that had authority over the community. The Sheikh ul-Islam represented the law of shariah and in the 16th century its importance rose which led to increased power. Sultan Murad appointed a Sufi, Yayha, as his Sheikh ul-Islam during this time which led to violent disapproval. The objection to this appointment made obvious the amount of power the Sheikh ul-Islam had, since people were afraid he would alter the traditions and norms they were living under by issuing new fatwas.

The office of Sheikh ul-islam was abolished in 1924, at the same time as the Ottoman Caliphate. After the National Assembly of Turkey was established in 1920, this office was in the Shar’iyya wa Awqaf Ministry until 1924, when the Ministry was abolished due to separation of religion from state, the office was replaced by the Presidency of Religious Affairs. As the successor entity to the office of the Sheikh al-Islam, the Presidency of Religious Affairs is the most authoritative entity in Turkey in relation to Sunni Islam.

Yep.

OK, so, according to that article, what else are they talking about in Germany?

Grey Wolf Deputy Chairman of the Central Council of Muslims

She continues: “It comes as no surprise that Mehmet Alparslan Celebi, deputy chairman of the Central Council of Muslims, has also called for support for the Turkish war of aggression on Northern Syria. After all, his association ATIB, which is organised in the Central Council, is a direct offshoot of the fascist Grey Wolves. However, I find astonishing how Turkish nationalism and chauvinism are spread here under the cloak of religion – that should contradict the claim of Islam to unite nations.”

Grey Wolves? I don’t think I like where this is going.

First, let’s check out ATIB.

Not a great start. And then there’s this.

Reuters: Turkey targets Erdogan critics in Austria via informer network – lawmaker

“The ATIB umbrella group is an instrument of hard, ruthless and, in my view, legally unacceptable Turkish government politics in Austria,” Pilz told a news conference.

And this.

Austria Closes 7 Mosques and Seeks to Expel Imams Paid by Turkey

BERLIN — Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria on Friday ordered the closing of seven mosques and the scrutiny of the right of dozens of Turkish imams to remain in the country, citing suspected violations of an Austrian law that bans “political Islam” or foreign financing of Muslim institutions.

“Political Islam” is a new term for me. But I don’t have an advanced understanding of European politics around religion, though I know a little and know it is very different from the United States. Constitution and stuff.

“Parallel societies, politicized Islam or radical tendencies have no place in our country,” Mr. Kurz said at a news conference announcing the measures in Vienna on Friday.

“Parallel societies” is an interesting sounding concept too.

Since taking office last year, Mr. Kurz’s government has begun investigating Muslim organizations suspected of violating the country’s 2015 Islam law. The law aims to prevent any conflict between “thinking of oneself as a pious Muslim and proud Austrian citizen at the same time,” by regulating operations of the Islamic community.

OK, so this speaks to the ancient debate about whether or not membership in an independent religion and membership in a polity are compatible or not. Or discerning when they are and are not compatible, as when ancient Rome didn’t ask others to renounce their gods, only just accept the gods of Rome as well.

Which is obviously unacceptable in many religions, and perhaps to most people who consider themselves faithful to a religion.

In America, at least as a political tradition, we try to focus on behavior, not what a person “is” when making things illegal. So this notion of legal concern with promoting a way of thinking sounds problematic to me.

To the extent that a religion would cause a person to behave in ways detrimental to the maintenance of the state, however, right or wrong, we always expect the state to crack down on that.

As in, like, as an extreme example, a state is not going to accept religion as a reason for treason. That’s an extreme example, yes, but it’s illustrative of how states are not accepting of things that would make citizens disloyal. That’s just how things work.

It’s intimately related to why some of us support separation of church and state. It’s a weird historical irony that many people think of the importance of the separation as saving the government from religious influence.

That function of separation of church and state has its place, but back in the day, people also supported separation to stave off the corrupting influence of political power on organized religion. Tocqueville, for example, held reservations as to whether or not the church could maintain its ability to promote social cohesion if it became political. And that was in the early mid-1800s.

And that gets into a huge philosophical debate about why and when adherence to a religion becomes incompatible with citizenship in a polity, one that is much larger than is going to be resolved here. But it’s definitely interesting and important stuff.

I guess it makes sense to look at this Grey Wolves thing then, huh?

Wikipedia: Grey Wolves (organization

The Grey Wolves (TurkishBozkurtlar),[19] officially known as Ülkü Ocakları[20] (Turkish: [ylcy odʒakɫaɾɯ]; “Idealist Clubs/Hearths”), are a Turkish far-right ultranationalist organization. They are commonly described as ultranationalist and/or neo-fascist. A youth organization with close links to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP),[20] it has been described as MHP’s paramilitary or militant wing.[11][12][21][22] Its members deny its political nature and claim it to be a cultural and education foundation,[23] as per its full official name: Ülkü Ocakları Eğitim ve Kültür Vakfı (Idealist Clubs Educational and Cultural Foundation).[24]

Established by Colonel Alparslan Türkeş in the late 1960s, it rose to prominence during the late 1970s political violence in Turkey when its members engaged in urban guerrilla warfare with left-wing activists and militants. Scholars have described it as a death squad, responsible for most of the violence and killings in this period. Their most notorious attack, which killed over 100 Alevis, took place in Maraş in December 1978. They are also alleged to have been behind the Taksim Square massacre on May Day, 1977. The masterminds behind the Pope John Paul II assassination attempt in 1981 by Grey Wolves member Mehmet Ali Ağca were not identified and the organization’s role remains unclear. Due to these attacks, the Grey Wolves have been described by some scholars, journalists, and governments as a terrorist organization.[13][25][26][27][28] The organization has long been a prominent suspect in investigations into the Turkish “deep state“, and is suspected of having had close dealings in the past with the Counter-Guerrilla, the Turkish branch of the NATO Operation Gladio.

Mother fucker.

Might as well check out the third organization mentioned in that piece.

Wikipedia: Millî Görüş

Millî Görüş (Turkish: [milˈliː ɟœˈɾyʃ], “National Outlook” or “National Vision”) is a religio-political movement and a series of Islamist parties inspired by Necmettin Erbakan. It has been called one of “the leading Turkish diaspora organizations in Europe”[1] and also described as the largest Islamic organization operating in the West.[2] Founded in 1969, the movement claimed to have “87,000 members across Europe, including 50,000 in Germany,” as of 2005.[3] The term also refers to the “religious vision” of the organization[1] that emphasizes the moral and spiritual strength of Islamic faith (Iman) and explains the Muslim world‘s decline as a result of its imitation of Western values (such as secularism) and inappropriate use of Western technology.[4] The Movement is active in nearly all European countries and also countries like Australia,[5] Canada and the United States.

Not so bad, I guess?

According to several sources in Germany the attitude of the German branch towards Turkey has completely changed. After the taking over of Erdogan and the AKP the organisation is mainly serving the interest of the turkish government which now subsidizes the organisation. Diyanet, AKP and the turkish government practically control the organisations public statements and appearances.[8][9][10] [11][12]

Because of fraud and criminal offences of the board of directors several trials are running against the organisation.[13][14][15]

Goddammit.

Anything else?

In 2018, in Germany and Austria, several performances of plays organised by DITIB – which is suspected of carrying out spying activities for the Turkish government – were made public. Uniformed child soldiers handled toy weapons in the plays, shouted military commands and salute before dying for their fatherland, covered with the Turkish flag. At the same time, the Turkish army, supported by jihadist allies, invaded the northern Syrian canton of Afrin. Thousands of people died, countless were injured and had to leave their homes.

This is fine.

Anything else?

Berliner Morgenpost: Ditib supporters made for Christmas

The Ditib Association also controls numerous Islamic preachers in Germany. Some of its members are railing around Christmas

punch santa

Hamburg.  The upheavals in Turkey reach Germany. Like the Erdogan government related groups, members of the Turkish-Islamic Union of the Institute for Religion (DITIB) in Germany have recently made massive mood against the Christian Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. The association itself distances itself.

Ditib maintains mosques and is for example in Hamburg partner of the city in the contract with the Muslim associations and thus also has influence on the teaching design in the schools. On social networks, drawings have also been spread by Ditib organizations, where one sees a suspected Muslim man collide a Santa Claus. As the news agency dpa reports, the pictures are also from Facebook pages of Ditib associations from North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg.

They hate Christmas.

I mean, I guess it says the organization doesn’t have an official position on hating Christmas. Just the members hate Christmas?

What the hell is going on here?

I’d run down Milli Görüş a bit but it means “national vision,” appears a lot and is difficult for me to translate and differentiate things, and the first article I managed to decipher was about the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs basically telling NATO to go fuck itself or they’ll shut down the Malatya Kürecik Radar Base if the US proceeds with sanctions. So I think I’m done.

Meanwhile, Turkey wants more religious protection from the German state.

OK, this article is difficult for me to parse because church and state stuff is totally different in Germany than in the United States. But I know that established church stuff is very different there too.

“Established” churches that receive sponsorship from the state it’s in is something I understand. As an American, I think it’s not a great idea, but I get it.

A Church of Erdogan that receives funding and directives from Turkey doesn’t strike me as a terribly attractive idea.

Dec 14 (2/2): Russia’s Sales Pitch for the S-400

Y’know, it would be just like Russia to have this whole war in Syria, for them anyway, to be just an elaborate sales pitch to every tinpot dictator in the world to buy their S-400 air defense system to piss off the United States.

clerks chewly's anti-smoking sentiment sell more gum.gif

Not saying it’s a bad idea for them. Just that it’s something Putin would do. It’s so cynically obvious in retrospect as to be not a little chilling.

Consider these comments from old friends ZMart100 and barbed wire Bob.

ZMart100

I think part of this conflict for Russia that is about marketing their weapons. They are getting squeezed on the cheap end by China and on the high end by Europe and the US. The French used Libya to advertise their fighters and Russia is doing the same in Syria. Announcing the Su-35 can successfully defend airspace is good marketing material. Another example is that the unmanned vehicle they showed off a few days ago, the Uran-9, apparently doesn’t really work well yet.

barbed wire Bob

Regarding the [above],

Defense News: Turkey, Russia in negotiations for potential Su-35 jet deal

So this was in the back of my mind when, while tooling around on Twitter, I found what is really a remarkable piece of what appears to be propaganda.

But it wasn’t remarkable for its bullshit as propaganda but rather for the fact that, while wildly partisan, it was telling the truth. But with a point.

First, though, it’s good to understand who’s speaking. I found the article on Twitter here.

putin globe map

GeoPolitics: The Forgotten Game: Why is Russia Enemy #1 for the US and West?

That site, though, references this site as the source.

Fort Russ News: The Forgotten Game: Why Is Russia Enemy #1 For The US And West?

Which shows up on the SourceWatch wiki as being some kind of right-wing news portal for neo-fascists or something equally lovely.

What is “neo” about fascism anyway? Thought for another day.

Anyway, this is helpful information because GeoPolitics is the site I found it on, but it’s difficult to find information on it. Really, if you want to run a fabricated “news” and analysis outfit, it really does make sense to choose a name that is basically impossible to google because it’s a common noun.

As barbed wire Bob pointed out to me, the “About Us” section on the site is really quite wonderful.

Geopolitics News has goal to make it easier for reader to find in one place important news and analytics of events around the globe.

Right. Easy to find the important news, but not at all easy to find out who they are. Though they type with an accent.

I found their FaceBook page instructive though.

facebook geopolitics news.JPG

OK, so, pro-Russia right wing lunatics. Got it.

It’s important to know when considering the brutal straightforwardness of this piece.

Basically, as per above, it’s a sales pitch for the S-400 missile air defense system that was at the center of the recent kerfuffles over Turkey buying the system from Russia, for which Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 program, and about which France’s Macron said was incompatible with NATO membership.

This article makes it crystal clear as to why the S-400 is so important:

Russia is pitching the S-400 to the world as the most cost-effective way of resisting American intervention.

Air defense plus sovereignty is a more dangerous formula than communism, however. “Poor will be that country which cannot defend its people against attack from the air,” Georgy Zhukov said. These forgotten words of Marshal Zhukov are key to understanding the present situation and the fight for independence. As we see the scheme of US actions and interventionism, it is pretty easy to understand this point. Sanctions, injustice, and political or nationalist struggles are creating inside of every society a critical mass which will be supported by US interventionism after which the US will achieve its goals. However, the key and crucial element is air supremacy. Without air supremacy, which is the main weapon of the US recolonization process, the US is not likely to intervene in any country which has even an average land force. But without proper air defense, no matter how big the army or popularity of the ruling political party or president opposing the US, this regime is doomed to fall.

Given the US drive to dominate the world and given that Russia is exporting the best air defense systems in hot points of the world (Algeria, Syria, Iran, Venezuela), we must ask the question: Who is the aggressor? Who is attacking whom and what? Western capitalism cannot exist without imperialism. If in the Yeltsin period we saw the trend of letting down socialist bloc allies all over the world, then in Putin’s time we see the opposite, a sustaining of the remaining former partners of USSR, and not only sustaining the survivors, but also aiding the new, Venezuela being the best example.

There are several theories on Putin’s foreign policy. The first one is that this policy is only formulated around the war for energy resources which make up the base of today’s Russian economy. The second is that some hidden elites from the Soviet era are pursuing the same goals as earlier but with the cover of the present Russian state formula. Finally, there is the view that Russia is simply defending its position as a sovereign state. No matter which of these theories is most truthful, what is obvious is that Russia is confronting the US at almost all points on Earth.

So a reasonably persuasive and, frankly, accurate case is being made that air supremacy is perhaps the most powerful tool in the United States’s toolkit for foreign intervention, and that Russia stands against the US basically everywhere.

The piece goes on to make sure that we understand that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

The war in the Middle East is lost for the US and the damage dealt therein to its regional and world policy is devastating. Venezuela is likely to be the next spot of confrontation between USA and Russia.

The war in the Middle East is lost for the US and the damage dealt therein to its regional and world policy is devastating. Venezuela is likely to be the next spot of confrontation between USA and Russia. It is now clear that Russia and China both support Maduro in his struggle to maintain the country’s socialist path and stay in power. Russia deployed modern air defenses in the period of the late president Hugo Chavez, and now we see that Russia is helping Maduro by exporting 60,000 tons of wheat a month in addition to considerable logistical support. It is clear that Russia is not simply confronting the US in what could be said to be a mere defense of its position, but is openly entering into what should be called the US’ “backyard”, the famous “Monroe Doctrine” yard. The result is clear: sanctions, sanctions and more sanctions and a deeper hole in Russia-US relations. If we look at this from a strategic perspective, we see that Russia is running circles around US policy, reversing their gains from the Arab Spring, infiltrating like a worm into the EU with energy projects after cancelling the big Middle East pipeline. Russia is shaping a new relationship with Turkey and giving support to Duterte to change his foreign policy 180 degrees. The US is taking blow by blow.

So do we call this Cold War II? Or is it really just a continuation of the Cold War?

One way or another, if name-checking Venezuela seemed provocative with respect to taking this to the United States’ backyard, going all Monroe Doctrine on the matter makes it pretty clear they know what this means in terms of struggle for global influence.

Oh, and besides Venezuela, also: Everywhere else.

The next spots of confrontation, in addition to Venezuela, are likely to be the Korean Peninsula and the Balkans. Despite hundreds of threats, the US has still not attacked North Korea like it has Syria, so if the US loses another showdown with Russia and China, the whole system of US world domination could be in danger. Russia’s deployment of modern anti-aircraft systems to critical spots across the world is delivering more blows to US policy than any radical anti-imperialist ideologies. The US can only maintain power through sheer force. As we can see in the present situation, the US is strategically losing, and further confrontation with Russia such as with the new sanctions is only slowing down the US’ loss of domination, but such cannot reverse this process.

This Russia and China thing is probably going to become a problem at some point too, isn’t it?

There’s also some good stuff in there about how ISIS is a US creation that we inflict on countries that don’t do what we want, ostensibly to destabilize the country so we can intervene.

I find this doubtful.

But the rest of the piece makes a lot of sense. Paralyze the west with an existential philosophical crisis while you consolidate the region’s energy and weapons industries.

In this context, Russia just had the best imaginable advertisement for the S-400 as the world watched the US and NATO freak out over Turkey buying it.

Like, it would be very hard to demonstrate the effectiveness of the system in conventional terms. Even a good system misses sometimes. Also, who’s to say if a successful test was rigged? How consistent is it? etc.

What can’t be faked is seeing how upset NATO countries get over it.

So the US and NATO’s reaction has basically made Russia’s pitch for the S-400 for them.

Think about what S-400 sales get Russia:

  • Money from the arms sales
  • Strategic alliances against the United States all over the world
  • Intel on air crafts against which the system is targeted.

So by now it’s pretty clear that while the US and Russia are both technically in Syria to prevent the escalation of the conflict, Russia and the US are not aligned.

Given that Russia is at least provisionally aligned with Turkey in the Buy The S-400 Fuck The West sense, it makes sense that the US military sees them as more of a problem than a solution in the region.

A threat, even.

New York Times: Turkey and Russia Judged Bigger Risk Than ISIS for U.S. Troops in Syria
American commanders have requested guidance on dealing with an attack from those armed groups and others from Iran and the Syrian government, but officials say they have received muddled direction.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s rapidly shifting strategy in northern Syria has American commanders there scrambling to protect their forces from an expected surge in actions by military units from Turkey, Russia, Iran and the Syrian government, as well as their proxy forces, according to Defense Department officials. American commanders now see these armed groups as a greater danger than the Islamic State forces they were sent to fight.

It’s becoming more and more evident every day that the conflict in Syria is just some kind of weird performance art, for Russia at least, that isn’t really so much about Syria or Rojava or ISIS—just messing with the West.

Sub-game in a big game. And just as Russia is eyeing bigger things in offering air defense to the anti-USA masses, so does the US military have a sense of where things are going.

I love it when Chinese papers run AP articles. I dunno why, it’s just funny to me. But yeah, it’s an AP article.

AP: Pentagon chief plans to shift US focus to China and Russia

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday he still plans to shift the American military’s focus to competing with China and Russia, even as security threats pile up in the Middle East.

So this is a big geopolitical shift. Further, Esper lets us know that, consistent with Russia’s strategy above, this is about Russian influence over smaller states.

In his speech Saturday, Esper made only a passing reference to Iran, citing Tehran’s “efforts to destabilize” the region.

He focused instead on shifting the U.S. military’s focus toward China and Russia — “today’s revisionist powers.” He accused Moscow and Beijing of seeking “veto power” over the economic and security decisions of smaller nations.

On Friday, Esper said he realizes that it will be difficult to move resources out of the Middle East to increase the focus on China and Russia.

Poor Iran. Can’t get anyone to fight with them.

But yeah, there’s the big picture here. More global domination masters of the universe stuff from Russia and the US (and China?) where smaller states become the vehicle through which the larger conflict occurs.

Or, in the case of Rojava, “proto-states,” or whatever they call such entities that international player states don’t want to recognize.

Speaking of recognition, as though it hadn’t already been apparent, we can now understand the purchase of the S-400 in the context of the above. This is to say, the S-400 is much more than an arms deal; it is a strategic alliance against the United States.

Gotta wonder what this means for Turkey’s membership in NATO.

Ahval: Turkey may be spinning out of NATO orbit, U.S. defence chief says

At the time of the incursion into northern Syria, we thought it was a mistake, we thought it would lead to greater instability in the region. It really once again our concerns about Turkey’s direction that they may be spinning out of the NATO orbit,” Esper on Saturday said during an interview at Reagan National Defense Forum.

Yeah, the invasion of an experiment in liberal democracy with Islamo fascist militant jihadis probably should have been a clue.

That said, apparently the US being tetchy with Turkey still doesn’t mean any promises for Rojava.

The U.S. policy in Syria is to guarantee enduring defeat of the ISIS and the United States continues to cooperate with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to achieve this goal, Esper said.

The U.S. defence chief said the mutual interest between the United States and the Kurdish forces was the physical defeat of the caliphate of the ISIS.

“But, no point in the time, do we say we are here to help you establish an autonomous Kurdish state. No time do we say we are going to defend you against Turkey, a NATO ally for 70 years,” Esper said.

Swell.

But we can get a sense of what it means for the US military and the world, which is to say, some bulking up may be expected.

China’s apparently building some kind of super-duper aircraft carrier too. Perhaps something to look at another day.