Saturday, March 29, 2014

Turkey Updates March 29 , 2014 - Local Elections on March 30 , 2014 in focus .......

Overview ......

Extraordinary security measures taken for polls


Extraordinary measures have been taken to secure the March 30 local elections following one of the tensest electoral campaigns in Turkey's political history.

In Istanbul alone, 15,062 policemen will be on duty at voting centers. After the voting is complete, the number will increase to 39,000 to oversee the counting, packaging and transferring of the ballots, which means that almost all police officers in Istanbul will be on duty for the local elections.

Political parties will also take their own measures. Mustafa Ataş, the chair of the Election Coordination Committee of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has said that in addition to the legally taken measures, the party has made an extensive plan to follow up the election results. AKP representatives at voting centers have been instructed not to leave until all votes are counted and registered. Specially designed smart phones have also been distributed to AKP representatives to photograph and send vote registers to the Ankara headquarters to be used as evidence in possible legal battles and recounting in the future.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has also set up its own online system to scrutinize the election results by hiring two information technology expert from abroad. All citizens have been invited to login to the website with their citizenship numbers and check to see whether the counts are correct.

daily Hürriyet Ankara correspondent
Mert Gökhan Koç was attacked during
a brawl between AKP and Turkish
Communist Party (TKP) supporters. 
Several instances of violence, as well as controversial incidents in which election officials have been given sacks of ballots to store at their own residences until polling day, have marred the run-up to +March 30. In the most recent incident, daily Hürriyet Ankaracorrespondent Mert Gökhan Koç was attacked during a brawl between AKP and Turkish Communist Party (TKP) supporters.

Daily Zaman's correspondent Derviş Genç, on the other hand, was briefly detained after taking a photo of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's adviser Mustafa Varank and journalist Yıldıray Oğur earlier in March during a rally in Mersin

New ballot-counting method to be used in polls

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

DHA Photo
DHA Photo
A new ballot-counting method is introduced for the March 30 local elections due to an increase in the number of metropolitan municipalities, but it remains unclear how the general results will be evaluated.

A new metropolitan law which was approved by Parliament in late 2012 increased the number of provinces governed by metropolitan municipalities while ending provincial councils in those cities.

In previous elections the results in provincial council votes revealed how many votes a party obtains in general. Now, voters in 30 metropolitan municipalities will not vote for provincial councils, but constituents in the remaining 51 provinces in Turkey will continue to vote for the bodies.

Political parties claim that the vote in the 30 metropolitan municipalities and the total votes in the other provincial councils of the 51 provinces will provide a general outlook of the results. The High Election Board (YSK), however, has already stated that it will not make a general count.

Who will elect whom?   
Villages: Provincial council members, mayors for districts, muhtars (village headmen) and council of elders members.

Example: Büyükyurt, Nazımiye, Tunceli. A voter in the village of Büyükyurt will get to vote for a provincial council member for the eastern province of Tunceli, the mayor of her local district (Nazımiye), her muhtar in Büyükyurt, as well as members of the council of elders.

Provinces that are not metropolitan municipalities: Provincial council members, mayors for districts and municipal council members, muhtars and council of elders members.

Example: Kazım Karabekir, Karaman. A voter in the district of Kazım Karabekir in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman will elect provincial council members for Karaman, a mayor for Kazım Karabekir, municipal council members for Kazım Karabekir, as well as a neighborhood muhtar and council of elders members.

Metropolitan municipalities: Metropolitan municipality mayors, mayors for districts and municipal council members, muhtars and council of elders members.

Example: Duatepe neighborhood, Şişli, Istanbul. A voter in the neighborhood of Duatepe in the central Istanbul district of Şişli will vote for the overall mayor of Istanbul, the mayor of the district of Şişli, members of Istanbul’s metropolitan municipal council, a muhtar for Duatepe, as well as council of elders for Duatepe.

Over 50 million to vote in tense ballot


More than 50 million Turkish people go to the polls to vote in the crucial local elections on March 30, amid security concerns raised from both the government and the opposition. Hürriyet Daily News will cover the election day with fresh reports, live updates and instant results from 81 provinces.

More than 48 million people will vote in urban polling stations, while 3 million are registered to vote in their villages. DAILY NEWS photo
More than 48 million people will vote in urban polling stations, while 3 million are registered to vote in their villages. DAILY NEWS photo
More than 50 million Turkish people go to the polls to vote in the local elections on March 30, amid security concerns raised from both the government and the opposition.

The Higher Election Board (YSK) has announced that a total of 52,695,831 people are eligible for voting, at a total of 177,044 polling stations.

Voting will start at 7 a.m. in the eastern provinces of Turkey and will end at 4 p.m. In western Turkey, voting will be between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

People will vote for the mayors and administrators of district and provincial municipalities, as well as provincial city council members.

More than 48 million people will vote in urban polling stations, while 3 million are registered to vote in their villages.

There are a total of 8,794,284 voters in Istanbul, while Turkish capital Ankara has 3,224,687 voters and İzmir has 2,787,874 voters.

However, the run-up to this election has transformed March 30 into more than just a local poll. After last year’s nationwide Gezi Park protests and the corruption probe that went public on Dec. 17, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cast this election as a crucial referendum on his government.

Thirty of the 81 provinces of Turkey are administered by Metropolitan Municipalities, and the race is likely to be more heated in them, especially in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Antalya and Diyarbakır, which hold numeric and symbolic significance for the central power.

Apart from the highly coveted metropolitan mayoral seats, winning districts is crucial as well: Istanbul has 39 districts in total and Ankara has 25.

Voices from across Turkey’s political spectrum have expressed concern about the security of the polls. Prime Minister Erdoğan himself claimed that the opposition would “try any tricks to alter the results,” while Family and Social Policies Minister Ayşenur İslam has likened the job of poll officials to that of the bowmen in the Battle of Uhud in 625 A.D., when the Muslims defeated the pre-Islamic Meccans.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has assigned party members for each and every ballot box in the country during in order to ultimately compare its own results with the official results to be announced by Turkey’s top election authority.

The CHP has developed a system that is entirely independent of the Computer Supported Central Voter Registry System (SEÇSİS) used by the Supreme Election Board (YSK), CHP Deputy Chair Emrehan Halıcı told Anadolu Agency on March 28.

“CHP staff will enter results onto our own computer systems about all of the almost 200,000 ballot boxes. These results will be compared one to one with results to be announced by the YSK. Each ballot box will be compared one by one. If there is a discrepancy or mistake, objection within the 48 hours allowed by law and correction of these mistakes will be made possible,” said Halıcı, an expert on computer technology-based projects, while noting that in addition to the 200,000 CHP staff, some 300,000 informatics volunteers will also be involved with the observation of the ballot boxes.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the country have also signed up to work voluntarily to oversee the vote counting, in a previously unseen participation in the elections.

Political intrigue and PM Erdogan actions and commentary.......

Erdoğan sues Gülen-linked journalists, as one pundit briefly detained


A columnist regarded as close to the Gülen Movement was briefly detained in Ankara March 29 as in the investigation on the leak of a recording of top security officials discussing possible military action in Syria, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed several petitions for lawsuits.

Prosecutor Tekin Küçük has reportedly ordered the arrest, but Aytaç was not at his house when the police raided it at night. Aytaç, who is also a scholar, later went to the police station himself and was detained there due to the "impression" that he had knowledge of the Syria meeting leak, semi-official Anadolu Agency reported. Aytaç was released after testifying.

Aytaç was a guest on Samanyolu television March 26, claiming that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would invade Syria with "a limited operation" to reclaim the Süleyman Shah tomb from the jihadist groups. "Everything is ready for the operation. This will be the biggest material [of propaganda for the government before the March 30 local elections]," he said on the program.

The initial investigation has shown the leaker is "an insider," ruling out the possibility of a foreign secret service's involvement, according to daily Hürriyet. No bugs were found at the meeting room in the Foreign Ministry.

Turkish President Abdullah Gül slammed the leak as an “act of espionage” and vowed that those who carried out the wiretapping would be found and shown “no tolerance.”

“Everything and everybody is being investigated in the most meticulous way,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said March 28 describing the leak as a violation of confidentiality of the State of the Republic of Turkey.

'Usual suspects'

Prime Minister Erdoğan has filed a petition for lawsuit against Aytaç and Emre Uslu, another pundit close to the Gülen movement, claiming the two pundits are among "usual suspects" in the espionage investigation.

Erdoğan has also sued Today's Zaman editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş and daily Zaman columnist Mehmet Kamış, stating in the petition that two journalists "mocked" his tired voice and "insulted" him on Twitter.

Former Istanbul police intelligence department head Ali Fuat Yılmazer is another individual who has been sued by Prime Minister Erdoğan.

In his petition, Erdoğan denied Yılmazer's recent claims that he gave an order to arrest former army chief Gen. İlker Başbuğ as part of the Ergenekon case and argued that Yılmazer "confessed his crime" when he admitted that "all arrests were made by them [the police]" during the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer investigations. Erdoğan's lawyers have asked the court to issue a travel ban for Yılmazer, Uslu and Aytaç.

Gülen's green passport cancelled
Meanwhile, the governor's office of the eastern province of Erzurum has cancelled the green passport of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, citing irregularities.

The leader of the Gülen movement had benefited from the right to have a green passport in 1991, as a resigned public servant. Although green passport is a special passport that allows the bearer to travel visa-free to certain countries, the United States is not in the list, hence Gülen's residence in the U.S. will not be affected by the decision. Gülen has to apply to a Turkish consulate in the U.S. to renew his passport as a standard one.

Twitter wins a key case against Turkish government


Twitter has won a court case against the Turkish government's decision to block access to the social media platform in Turkey, CNN-Türk television reported.

The Telecommunication Directorate (TİB), which is affiliated with Turkey's Ministry of Transport, Maritime and Communication, had blocked Twitter March 20, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vowed to close it down.

Turkish authorities listed three court rulings and one prosecutor decision as the reason to block Twitter. The most striking verdict used as the base of the ban came from the Anatolia 5th Criminal Court of Peace. The court issued the ruling number 2014/181 in response to a complaint filed March 18 by former Minister of Transport, Maritime and Communication Binali Yıldırım and his son.

Yıldırım, the current mayoral candidate for İzmir from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), requested the court block access to a Twitter account, @oyyokhırsıza (no votes for thievery), and a related blog, claiming “defamation.” @oyyokhırsıza was using strong language to refer to the corruption allegations against Yıldırım and his son.

Twitter filed two petitions for lawsuits in Turkish courts on March 26 to challenge the access ban on its service, while starting to block access to certain Turkish content for the first time, as requested by Ankara. @oyyokhirsiza, which was the subject of Yıldırım's legal complaint, was the first "withheld" account.

Twitter's first petition for lawsuit was against the earlier court ruling ordering the suspension of @oyyokhirsiza. In the second petition, the San Francisco-based company applied to the Turkish court for the overall unblocking of its service in Turkey.

Istanbul Heavy Penal Court ruled March 21 that it could not “repeal the ban on Twitter” as the Turkish government’s blocking of access to the social media platform is based on “an executive decision, not a judicial verdict.”

Twitter: Victory for free expression in Turkish court
An Ankara court, on the other hand, issued a stay of execution ruling on the decision to block Twitter March 26 and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç announced that the verdict would be implemented by the government. Legally, authorities have a 30-day deadline to repeal the blanket ban on Twitter.

The latest court ruling reported by CNN-Türk means Twitter will also be able to stop withhelding the aforementioned account, @oyyokhirsiza, from its Turkish users. "State institutions should refrain from actions and procedures that may limit an individual's freedom of thought and opinion," the Istanbul 18th Criminal Court of First Instance reportedly said, while also stressing the factor of public interest in governance.

Twitter has hailed the court ruling on its official blog, adding: "We have now immediately reversed the Country Withheld Content action previously taken to block access to that account in Turkey. This decision is an exceptionally strong win for freedom of expression, and it will be of paramount value for us in protecting Twitter’s users against other attempts at censorship in the future. While it represents a welcome outcome on one aspect of our legal efforts, this decision does not address the broader ban of Twitter in Turkey. We will continue to fight to have the ban lifted on behalf of the millions of people in Turkey who have come to rely on Twitter as a vital communications tool."

The TİB had also blocked access to YouTube on March 27, hours after leaked recordings of a key security meeting between government officials over Syria were published on the video sharing website. The lawsuit filed by the Ankara Bar Association against the decision demands stay of execution and cancelation of the ban on YouTube.


Will tapping scandal bring any resignations?

The tapping scandal, which revealed that a secret security meeting in Turkish foreign minister’s office has been eavesdropped caused shock waves in government circles inAnkara on the eve of critical local elections on March 30.

The recordings of a crisis meeting of Syria on March 13, which was put on the Internet by people whose identities are still not known on March 27, caused both anger and embarrassment. The meeting was about a threat posed by the militants of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) against the Tomb of Süleyman Shah in Syria, but considered as Turkish territory by international law and protected symbolically by an elite unit of 48 Turkish soldiers.

They were four in the office of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, before getting into the actual meeting room. The other three were Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Chief Hakan Fidan and Deputy Chief of General Staff General Yaşar Güler.

The meeting was eavesdropped on most probably by using a bug in the room. As Davutoğlu said yesterday, there was a jammer in the room having the capacity of disabling mobile phones and other radio-based devices. The room was designed to prohibit resonance eavesdropping from outside. So there is a possibility that someone from within the building had bugged the room, which had been reported to be electronically swept a week ago.

That looks like the case of the bugging of the home-office of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan some two years ago. The suspicion in the still ongoing, the investigation converges on the close circle of Erdoğan, which might well be the case for Davutoğlu.

Following Davutoğlu and Erdoğan, President Abdullah Gül reacted strongly against “this act of espionage” and said those who are responsible should be punished.

There is no doubt that eavesdropping on a secret security meeting in a country’s Foreign Ministry is an act of espionage.

But there are also question marks about the protection of the house that was robbed. So, the housekeeper and the police have some responsibility in protecting the assets, especially if the assets belong to people, not their private holdings. Here is what I’m trying to say: The meeting took place on March 13, approximately three months later than the start of the graft probe of Dec. 17, 2013. Right after that, accusing his former ally Fethullah Gülen (the moderate Islamist scholar living in the U.S.), Erdoğan had said in despair and fury that all state communications in the last two years might have been interfered with, including the ones of President Gül. It was MİT itself who found a “pirate” program embedded in the software of a government department. One could expect a little bit of additional care after such developments, especially for such an important meeting on Syria, which MİT has particular responsibilities.

Will this scandal bring any resignations or removals from office, those of Davutoğlu and Fidan, right after the elections for example?

Not very likely. On the contrary, it is more possible for them to carry on as wounded veteran heroes.

But it is also likely that Erdoğan cannot carry out his Syria policy (which practically came to an end with the revealed recordings) as he had been so far. Actually, that is valid for almost all areas, from economy to security, but valid for foreign policy, even if he gets half of the votes again; it is a different Turkey since Gezi protests, since the graft probe, especially when the country will have two more elections ahead in almost a year’s time.


Erdoğan’s weakest link is Ankara

No, I will not talk about the situation that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has put himself in with the Twitter ban thanks to his half-wit advisors.

His long time fellow President Abdullah Gül, who had already broken the ban, slammed the decision on March 23, also teasing that the number of users had doubled since the ban.

The night before, U.S. President Barack Obama had also openly slammed it, while the U.S. Embassy in Ankara posted an article on the State Department’s blog with the hashtag “#21CenturyBookBurning,” thus likening it to the infamous Nazi practice.

I also won’t talk about Erdoğan’s announcement of the shooting down of the Syrian plane in his election rally in Istanbul. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had warned Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel days ago about Erdoğan’s possible venture to push the military into a clash with Syria to score election points.

In his parallel universe, Erdoğan would point to the crowds in his Istanbul rally as evidence of his righteousness anyway.


 Today let’s talk about the possibilities in Istanbul and Ankara for the critical local elections on March 30.
Why Istanbul and Ankara? Because of the population concentrations, the balance among Turkey’s three biggest cities - Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir - determine the overall political atmosphere of the country.

Currently, the score is 2-1. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) holds the mayorship of Istanbul and Ankara, while the CHP holds İzmir.

Public opinion polls this season are not very reliable, the main reason being the high percentage of still undecided voters; in some polls this number is as high as 20 percent which means the margin of error is up to plus or minus 5 percent. But one can safely estimate that the CHP is going to keep İzmir, Turkey’s port which opens to the West in all senses of the word.

That leaves us with Istanbul and Ankara. If at least one of those country-size cities (14 m, 5 m, respectively) will change hands that would definitely determine the political course of Turkey after March 30.


One of the golden rules of Turkish politics is that who takes Istanbul, takes Turkey.

It is also true that whoever loses Ankara, loses Turkey.

The first would be an instant and rather painless death, while the second would be the beginning of a painful one.

The tale of two Turkish cities has always determined the political atmosphere, since the establishment of the republic more than 90 years ago.

The rise of Islamic politics in Turkey started when Necmettin Erbakan’s Welfare Party won both Istanbul and Ankara in the March 1994 locals. Tayyip Erdoğan was the winner in Istanbul and Melih Gökçek was the winner in Ankara.

Erdoğan won easily because Istanbulites got rid of the incompetence of the former mayor, after an extramarital affair-tainted corruption scandal. Gökçek had won by a margin of only 6,500 votes because of the fight between three center-left parties.


The CHP’s Istanbul candidate, Mustafa Sarıgül, is a hard-working populist politician who proved himself in consecutive mayoral terms in Istanbul’s well-off Şişli district. On the other hand AK Parti’s incumbent, Kadir Topbaş, is not a bad mayor when it comes to services; his rating is generally assumed to be higher than his party. Plus, he is supported by civil society groups such as lobbies from Anatolian towns (Istanbul is a magnet for domestic migration), business lobbies, and Islamic groups.

Gökçek, on the other hand, despite currently enjoying a fourth term in Ankara, relies on rather less-educated masses, thankful for the not-very-long-term jobs and benefits from the municipality, and what’s more he is not very well-organized.

Gökçek has also been supported by a not-so-much-in-number but a very well-organized group: The Cemaat. Followers of Erdoğan’s once-close ally Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident moderate Islamist scholar, have been supporting Gökçek in their good old days with Erdoğan. Now it is a delicate matter, and perhaps this is why Gökçek is the only exemption in the entire AK Parti in not slamming Gülen in public.


However, the CHP candidate in Ankara is a considerable rival to Gökçek. Kılıçdaroğlu took a great risk when he picked Mansur Yavaş, who had been the candidate for the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the previous local elections. Like Sarıgül in Istanbul, he proved himself as a successful district mayor, in the Beypazarı township ofAnkara and is known as a conservative but secular, moderate politician. It now seems that he has started to close the gap. (In the 2009 locals the AK Parti got 38.5 percent, the CHP got 31.5 percent, and the MHP got 26.8 percent of the vote.) Now, many names from the MHP, former center-right parties, and even the AK Parti, are now supporting Yavaş’s campaign for the CHP.
If he closes that gap and takes Ankara, or in other words, if Gökçek loses Ankara, that could be the start of the fall of Erdoğan in ballot box terms as well.

The AK Parti losing Istanbul would be a surprise. There’s a higher possibility in Ankara, and it could mark a turning point for the Erdoğan era.

From Moon of Alabama...... Note John Kerry fingerprints appear in this alleged false flag contemplated by Turkey.....

March 28, 2014

Media Neglect Turkish False Flag Attack Leak And Its Implications

Some more thoughts on the leaked tape from a meeting in the Turkish foreign ministry which is only very selectively reported in "western" media. A video with recorded voices and English text is available as is the seemingly complete text in two parts.
The setting of the recording is this:
The voices of the illegal recording believed to belong to Davutoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Hakan Fidan, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Gürel. According to the information obtained from sources, the recording consists of a chat between four officials in Davutoğlu’s office before the commencement of the official meeting with the participation of more civil and military bureaucrats in another room at the Foreign Ministry.
It is not clear when exactly the meeting happened. It would fit the situation late last year or early 2014.
The major points from my view:
  • Turkey has delivered 2,000 trucks of weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Syria.
  • There are plans for false flag attacks on Turkey or Turkish property to justify an attack from Turkey on Syria.
  • The Turkish military has great concerns going into and fighting Syria.
  • The general atmosphere between these deciders is one of indecisiveness. Everyone seems to be unclear what Erdogan wants and is waiting for clear orders from above.
  • U.S. military has shortly before the meeting presented fresh plans for a no-fly one over Syria.
Then there is the fact in itself that this tape and others leaked. Internal government communication in Turkey and personal communication of Turkish official has been thoroughly compromised. This will hinder future decision making and will erode any trust Turkish government allies may have in it.

It is somewhat astonishing how "western" media avoid the content of the leaked tape. An AP report on it makes a lot of the youtube blocking the Turkish government ordered in reaction to the tape. Of the recording itself the AP only mentions this:
The four are allegedly heard discussing a military intervention in neighboring Syria, a sensitive political issue in Turkey, although the context of the conversation is not clear.
The Washington Post filed that AP report under Technology. This is an incredible disservice to its readers.
The Guardian report based on Reuters is not any better:
The move by the TIB came hours after an anonymous YouTube account posted a leaked audio recording allegedly of a confidential conversation between Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, undersecretary of the foreign ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu and deputy chief of the general staff, Yasar Gürel, discussing possible military action in Syria.
There is no mentioning at all of the false flag attack. The Wall Street Journal comes somewhat nearer to the truth:
... a leaked recording published anonymously on the platform purported to reveal a conversation in which Turkey's foreign minister, spy chief and a top general appear to discuss how to create a pretext for a possible Turkish attack within Syria.
For once kudos to the NYT which at least touches one point but leaves out the other important ones:
... the officials were heard discussing a plot to establish a justification for military strikes in Syria. One option that is said to have been discussed was orchestrating an attack on the Tomb of Suleyman Shah ...
German media did not do any better.
A NATO ally is planning a false flag attack on its own territory which would implicate NATO Article 5 and other NATO countries' forces and the media do not even touch the issue? This is ludicrous.
Related to the Syria issue is another thinly sourced trial balloon, the tenth or so, by the unofficial CIA spokesperson David Ignatius in the Washington Post:

Posted by b at 06:34 AM | Comments (135)


March 27, 2014

Syria: Erdogan's False Flag Invasion Plans Reveled

Updated below.

An March 23 the AlQaeda affiliated groups Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al-Shams consisting of foreign men crossed the border from Turkey and attacked the western Syrian province of Latakia. The seized the Kasab border crossing and the Armenian town Kessab. People there fled as the Jihadist removed the crosses from the Armenian churches and replaced them with their black flag. The Jihadist groups were given artillery support and anti-air cover from Turkey. A Syrian jet on a bombing run against the Jihadists was shot down by the Turkish air-force.

The Jihadist managed to capture several hill sides before being stopped by reinforcing Syrian forces. After the plane was shot down Syrian anti-air radarspainted any Turkish flight coming near its border ready to shot them down. Heavy artillery is used against the intruders and they are said to have high casualties. Their wounded get transported to the Turkish border and find help in Turkish hospitals. The Jihadist campaign is clearly in trouble and it may only take a few days until they will have to give up and retreat.

The Turkish prime minister Erdogan and his foreign minister Davutoglu have further plans. They allege that the Tomb of Süleyman Shah, a small place in Syria 25 kilometer from the Turkish border but under Turkish sovereignty, is threatened by Jihadist group Islamic State (ISIS). They say that Turkish troops are ready to go to protect it. This clearly is a threat of invasion under some attack on radio Gleiwitz reasoning. Today leaked tape recordings of two tapes of a conference (in Turkish, UPDATE: English transcript of first part) between Davutoglu, the chief of the Turkish intelligence MIT Hakan Fidan and others, seem to confirm that this is indeed the plot. According to a preliminary translations by Firat Gunay (for which I can not vouch):
  • Fidan offers Davutoglu to send men into Syria to fire missiles on Turkey.
  • After Davutoglu rejects that, Fidan offers to bomb the tomb of Süleyman Shah.
  • Talk about the needs of the Jihadists which is more about ammunition than guns.
  • Fidan states that they have delivered 2,000 truckloads of weapons to the insurgents.
  • Davutoglu says Kerry had asked if the Turks would invade Syria and had pressed for it to do so.
  • Davutoglu also says they have plans for a no-fly zone over Syria and have delivered such plans to NATO.
  • Davutoglu assures Fidan that Erdogan has agreed to all the plans.
  • Fidan says things do not go well for the insurgents and that Turkey has send a general to help them.
Shortly after the calls were leaked on Youtube Turkey blocked local Internet access to Youtube. It is now also available on Vimeo and elsewhere. The tape release, only the latest in a larger series, came after Turkish police raided a holding company related to the religious Gülen movement, an earlier ally of Erdogan which has become his fiercest enemy. A TV station related to Gülen was also taken down.

There are local elections on March 30 and Erdogan's AK Party may lose the mayor seats in Istanbul and/or Ankara. Erdogan seems to have not only his voice but also his mind. He is using a strategy of demonetization against everything - Twitter, Gülen, Israel, Syria, whatever - to play to his large base. This base though may no longer be big enough for electoral victories.

The Obama administration is also planting stories of new "worries" about Jihadists attacks on "western" interests from north or east Syria. Such an "attack" could easily be orchestrated and then used to "justify" "western" intervention and a renewed perspective of a no-fly zone over Syria.

The northern attack on Syria comes at a time where a long announced attack in the south fails to materialize. There have been sightings of new Chines anti-tank weapons in the south but there is no sign of a coordinated campaign. Indeed there are doubts that the announced Southern Front exists at all. The talk about it may have been a diversion for the attack in the north.

Turkey and the United States should be careful with their dreams of invading Syria. Two can play such games and there are Russian troops ready on the eastern Ukrainian border. A move in one place could result in a counter move elsewhere.
UPDATE: A link to the complete taped conference with English text. A link to the complete English text. (Again: I yet can not vouch for their correctness.)

Timing very convenient - Erdogan needed Election political points and syria rebels being systematically routed by Assad's forces....



President Assad's forces work to secure the route from Damascus to Aleppo as a car bomb hits Lebanon border town
Syrian forces took control of two villages near the Lebanese border on Saturday after driving out rebels, state media said, helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad secure the strategic road connecting Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast.
The fall of Flita and Ras Maara, two of the last rebel bastions in the area, could push militants and refugees over the border into Lebanon – risking further destabilizing the Mediterranean country whose own 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
"The Army and Armed Forces restored stability and security to the towns of Ras Maara and Flita ... after getting rid of the fleeing terrorists and destroying their weapons," state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian government has been making incremental gains along the highway as well as around Damascus and Aleppo in recent months, regaining the upper hand in a conflict that entered its fourth year this month.
Assad needs to secure the route to transport chemical agents out of Syria via the coast, as part of an agreement with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to remove Syria's chemicals weapons arsenal.
Meanwhile, the United Nations' humanitarian chief on Friday told the U.N. Security Council that the Assad regime's delays in withholding cross-border aid deliveries were "arbitrary and unjustified" and against international law.
Valerie Amos gave her first such report since the Security Council last month approved a resolution demanding that both the government and opposition allow immediate access everywhere in the country to deliver aid.
"The administrative arrangements that have been put in place for clearance for our convoys are quite convoluted," Amos told Reuters in an interview, after briefing the U.N. Security Council about how much-needed aid is still not reaching many in Syria.
The war in Syria, which began with largely peace protests in March 2011, has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones that has left more than 140,000 people dead.
It has also heightened sectarian tensions between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, causing insecurity and political gridlock.
Violence from the conflict spilled over into Lebanon Saturday, when a suicide bomber killed himself and three soldiers at a Lebanese army checkpoint in the border town of Arsal, Lebanese security sources said.
Arsal is home to thousands of Syrian refugees but also Syrian rebels and their Lebanese allies who have fled a Syrian army advance on the Syrian side of the border. Three other soldiers were wounded, the sources said.
Lebanese Sunnis accuse the Lebanese army of conspiring with forces loyal to Assad and the Lebanese Shia armed group, Hezbollah, which has sent fighters into Syria to support Assad against Sunni rebels.
The attack hit just hours after a speech by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who said he was protecting Lebanon by fighting in Syria against Sunni rebels.
"Some in Lebanon say the resistance (Hezbollah) has nothing to do with Syria," Nasrallah told supporters Saturday via a television link from an undisclosed location in Lebanon.
He added that he sent forces into a foreign war in Syria because if he didn't, Sunni rebels would eliminate everyone in Lebanon if they won in Syria, Reuters reported.
"The problem in Lebanon is not that Hezbollah went to Syria, but that we were late in doing so," Nasrallah said. "This resistance will remain solid, with its head held high, protecting its people and its nation."
“Syria has become the great tragedy of this century — a disgraceful humanitarian calamity with suffering and displacement unparalleled in recent history,” said Antonio Gutteres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, last September.
Of the current refugees, more than 1.3 million are under the age of 18