With a parade for Putin, Serbia walks a tightrope By Matt Robinson1 hour agoSerbian army soldiers drive tanks during preparations for a military parade in Belgrade October 13, 2014. …By Matt Robinson BELGRADE (Reuters) – In his 1949 memoir Eastern Approaches, British officer Fitzroy Maclean wrote of standing on top of Belgrade’s fortress and watching the Nazis retreat across the River Sava, leaving the capital to the Red Army and Yugoslav Partisan guerrillas.The date, Oct. 20, 1944 became Liberation Day. It was marked initially with military parades, but once Yugoslavia split with Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union in 1948, these were abandoned in favor of memorials for those killed.On Thursday, guns, tanks and planes will be back in the city, now capital of Serbia, for a Liberation Day parade held four days early to accommodate the guest of honor — Russian President Vladimir Putin, en route to a summit in Milan.It is a gesture with huge symbolism in a Cold-War-style East-West split over Ukraine that has forced Serbia, politically indebted to Russia but seeing its economic future with the European Union, into a delicate balancing act.The United States is uncomfortable about the idea of Putin and his military chief taking the salute at a parade of 4,500 Serbian soldiers while NATO says Russian soldiers are still making war in eastern Ukraine.”You can have good relations with Russia and China, and with the United States. But our view of visits by Chinese and Russian officials differs; the Chinese haven’t attacked anyone, but the Russians have,” Michael Kirby, the U.S. ambassador to Serbia, was reported as telling the Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti in an interview last month.Kirby later said he was not trying to tell Serbia whom it could invite, but his remark exposed the tightrope the country is treading.„BOBBING AND WEAVING” Since the ouster of strongman Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 after a decade of war, Western sanctions and isolation over the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia, the most populous part of the socialist federation built by Josip Broz Tito after World War Two, has steadily turned towards the European mainstream.The numbers speak for themselves: between 2007 and 2013, the country of 7.3 million people exported 32.6 billion euros ($41.21 billion) worth of goods to the EU, compared to just 4.2 billion euros to Russia.Over the same period, the EU was the source of 9.2 billion euros in foreign direct investment in Serbia, compared to 2.5 billion euros from Russia.EU accession negotiations are set to begin in earnest, with full membership likely only after 2020, providing the 28-nation bloc can keep in check misgivings over the wisdom of expansion to the poorer countries of the western Balkans having taken in ex-Yugoslav Croatia last year.A Serbian army truck carries surface-to-air missiles during preparations for a military parade in Be …Majority Albanian Kosovo, which split from Serbia after a 1998-99 conflict stopped by NATO air strikes, remains an issue. Serbia has signed up to compromises, but the EU will press for more and Serbia has refused to recognize Kosovo as independent.It is Russia that stands between Kosovo and a seat at the United Nations, and Serbia, like much of eastern Europe, is also dependent on Russian gas.That has left Belgrade trying to straddle both East and West, a ploy played brilliantly by Tito during the Cold War but not so simple since the Berlin Wall came down.Serbia has pledged its respect for the territorial integrity of Ukraine, whose own moves towards the EU prompted Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russian revolt in the east.But Belgrade has refused to join the West’s sanctions on Russia, something the EU’s new commissioner tasked with accession negotiations, Johannes Hahn, said Belgrade would „have to address”.And while negotiating an Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO – the highest rung of cooperation between the military alliance and a country not aspiring to join – Serbia will host Russian soldiers for joint military exercises near the border with NATO member Croatia later this year.”That’s not at all smart,” said Jelena Milic, director of the Belgrade-based Centre for Euro-Atlantic Studies.She described Serbian policy as „bobbing and weaving.””There’s no foreign policy strategy and so there’s no security policy,” Milic told Reuters.Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, however, said the policy was „crystal clear”.”What is Serbia supposed to do? To say that, because we want to join the EU, sorry Russia, we’re not friends with you anymore? Where’s our national interest in that?” he told state television last week. „Russia and China are our only defense against Kosovo joining the United Nations.”FREE TRADE The quid pro quo became clear in 2008, when Kosovo declared independence and Serbia sold a majority stake in its gas monopoly to Russia’s Gazprom, at what was seen at the time as a bargain price. Russia’s veto-power kept Kosovo out of the realm of the United Nations, complicating the task of state-building in a victory of sorts for Serbia.Also of value to Serbia is its free-trade arrangement with Russia, signed in 2000 and a lure for foreign manufacturers looking to set up in the Balkans. Serbia wants to expand it to include the cars that Italian automaker Fiat builds in the Balkan country, making them cheaper on the Russian market.While Serbs have confirmed their EU ambitions through the ballot box, the economic crisis in the bloc has tested their enthusiasm, and many Serbs feel they share more values with fellow Orthodox Russians than the more liberal Europeans.”We have joint roots, language, faith, customs and culture,” Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic told Russian television. „In all wars we were always on the same side.”However, Goran Svilanovic, head of the Regional Cooperation Council promoting the region’s European integration and a former Yugoslav foreign minister, said Serbia would have little choice but to adapt.”As Serbia advances towards EU membership, it will have to adjust gradually to bring its foreign policy into line with EU policy,” he told Reuters last week.A sign that is already doing so sits in a field north of Belgrade, where in November last year a welder marked the ceremonial start on Serbia’s stretch of Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline, designed to further strengthen Russia’s hold on energy supplies to Europe.Full construction was due to commence in July; the government promised as much when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Belgrade in June. But bowing to EU pressure pending a ruling in Brussels on whether the project complies with EU law, Serbia appears to have quietly postponed.No official announcement was made, but Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic told reporters last week: „There’s no sense in it (the pipeline) starting and ending in Serbia.”Of Putin’s visit, he said:„Putin will hear that Serbia is on the European path. We have other relations we are developing with the Russian Federation, but the strategic goal is not in question – Serbia is on the EU path.”(1 US dollar = 0.7890 euro)(Additional reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac; writing by Matt Robinson; editing by PhilippaFletcher)
Inside Bashar Assad’s torture chambers Photos to be displayed at U.S. Holocaust Museum are ‘smoking gun’ evidence of war crimes, State Department official tells Yahoo News By Michael Isikoff4 hours agoCLICK IMAGE for slideshow: (Photo combination by Yahoo News, Photos by SANA/AP Photo, Courtesy of The Caesar Team/Coalition for a Democratic Syria.)The State Department has obtained 27,000 photographs showing the emaciated, bruised and burned bodies of Syrian torture victims — gruesome images that a top official told Yahoo News constitute „smoking gun” evidence that can be used to bring war-crimes charges against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.The photos are „horrific — some of them put you in visceral pain,” said Stephen J. Rapp, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, in an interview. „This is some of the strongest evidence we’ve seen in the area of proof of the commission of mass atrocities.”The photos — a small number of which will be put on public display for the first time on Wednesday at the U.S. Holocaust Museum — were smuggled out of Syria by an official regime photographer who has since defected and is known only by his code name, Caesar.They were shown at a closed-door session of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July where Caesar, wearing a hood, testified. They are now being analyzed at Rapp’s request by the FBI in part as an effort to determine whether any U.S. citizens may have been among the victims — a finding that could be the basis to bring criminal charges in the U.S. against officials of the Assad regime.The Syrian government has officially denounced the photos as fakes and suggested many of the corpses seen are actually of militants who died in battle.While FBI agents are still reviewing the photos, Rapp said that bureau officials have already „informally” told him „they think it is impossible they could be forgeries. There is no evidence of doctoring.”(A bureau spokesman confirmed only the review of the photos, adding: „It will take some time to complete the authentication process.”)Syrian Army defector Caesar, (in a blue hooded jacket) who has smuggled out of Syria more than 50,000 photographs …The story behind the photos begins in March 2011, when Arab Spring protests against the Assad government swept through Syria. As the military began rounding up suspected dissidents, Caesar — a military police officer — was assigned to lead a team of 11 photographers whose job it was to document the deaths of detainees brought to a military hospital from three detention centers around Damascus.But by the summer of 2013, Caesar has told investigators, he was so sickened by what he was seeing that he made contact with Syrian rebels. „I can’t do this anymore,” he told them, according to David Crane, a former war-crimes prosecutor for Sierra Leone who spent hours interviewing Caesar as part of a separate review of the photos commissioned by the government of Qatar.Caesar began smuggling his photos to the rebels, providing them with thumb drives concealed in his shoes, Crane said. To protect his family, Caesar faked his death, staging an elaborate funeral, before he escaped from Syria in August 2013. He is now in hiding in Europe.The photos, according to Crane, document „an industrial killing machine not seen since the Holocaust.” They show corpses, some of them lined up in a warehouse, many appearing to be victims of starvation, their ribs protruding from emaciated bodies.Some show men whose eyes were gouged out; others had bruises and lacerations consistent with beatings and in some cases strangulation, according to a report that Crane co-wrote about the photos released in January.Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who had called Caesar as a witness at the closed-door hearing in July, said that when he first saw the photos he thought of his father. As a member of Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, “my father had taken photos at Dachau when it was liberated, of the bodies stacked up at the ovens. This is eerily reminiscent. It’s absolutely appalling.”What’s also noteworthy about the photos, according to Crane, was the methodical nature of the enterprise: Each photo includes tags with numbers and letters that identify each of the victims as well as the detention center where they were imprisoned. One purpose: so military officials who ordered their deaths could have proof „their orders were carried out,” said Crane.Crane — who, as a war-crimes prosecutor for an international tribunal, brought the indictment against former Liberian President Charles Taylor — originally reviewed the photos along with two other international war-crimes prosecutors on behalf of a London law firm hired by the Qatari government.He then presented the photos for two hours at a session of the U.N. Security Council in support of a French-sponsored resolution authorizing an international war-crimes tribunal for Syria in April.Syrian Army defector Caesar, (in a blue hooded jacket) who has smuggled out of Syria more than 50,000 photographs …After his presentation was complete, Crane said, the Security Council fell silent. The U.S. ambassador, Samantha Power, „was blinking back tears,” said Crane. (A spokesman for Power did not respond to a request for comment. But in a statement at the time, Power said, „Nobody who sees these images will ever be the same.”)But the French resolution was vetoed by the Russian and Chinese representatives. That has left Rapp with what he acknowledges are „jurisdictional challenges” in bringing war-crimes charges against the regime officials responsible for the dead bodies. (A finding that U.S. nationals are among the victims could help overcome some of those challenges by allowing a Justice Department prosecution in U.S. courts.)But Rapp said he is not deterred. His office is working with an international team of investigators — under the direction of a private group called the Syria Justice and Accountability Project — to collect documents and other witness testimony that can be used to corroborate the photos. (The U.S. is also supporting a separate team of investigators developing evidence of war crimes by the Islamic State militant group.)The U.S. government has contributed $1 million to the effort to investigate the Assad regime’s abuses. And already, Rapp said, some documents showing orders to arrest particular detainees have been uncovered. Investigators are seeking to determine if those orders can be matched up with the bodies of detainees seen in the photographs.But there is still much more work to be done. Because many of the photos had to be compressed by Caesar to get them to fit on thumb drives, crucial metadata — which would yield the precise date and time that each image was recorded — was lost. Confirming the deaths of detainees shown in the photos with family members who are still inside Syria is also a problem.Still, Rapp said, „we are laying the foundation for the day when there will be accountability. This is the kind of evidence that can support prosecution of people all the way to the top.”
Assassination Attempt Sends Ukrainian Rebel Figurehead to Russian Hospital 863 SHARESWHAT’S THIS?Pavel Gubarev, a leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, at a press conference on July 9.IMAGE: DMITRY LOVETSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESSKIEV, Ukraine — A separatist figurehead from eastern Ukraine is unconscious and being treated in a Russian hospital after gunmen opened fire on his SUV, sending it crashing into a concrete pillar, according to local reports.The attack on Pavel Gubarev, 31, comes as factions within the separatist group vie ahead of self-organized elections on Nov. 2 to decide on the new leadership of their fledgling quasi-states.SEE ALSO: Ukrainians Toss Out Politicians in TrashBucketChallenge CampaignKiev has said it will not recognize the vote set to be held in several separatist-controlled cities throughout the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The government will hold its own national parliamentary elections a week earlier, on Oct. 26.Unknown assailants ambushed Gubarev’s vehicleUnknown assailants ambushed Gubarev’s vehicle as he and other pro-Russian rebels were traveling through the war-torn Donetsk region near the border with Russia, en route from Rostov-on-Don late Sunday, his wife, Ekaterina, wrote on Facebook.Gubarev’s driver lost control of the vehicle, which then crashed into a concrete pillar, leaving the separatist commander unconscious and with a cerebral edema, Ekaterina said. Other passengers reportedly made it out unscathed. She said her husband did not suffer any gunshot wounds and was expected to regain consciousness at “any moment.”It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the apparent assassination attempt, but separatist websites placed the blame on Ukrainian forces operating in the region. Kiev did not release a statement on the matter and Mashable could not reach an official for comment.Hours before the incident, Gubarev posted a message on Facebook saying he would make “a very important statement” on Monday.Recently he had been caught up in a power struggle over next month’s elections. Last week, the electoral commission of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic banned his party, “Novorossiya,” meaning New Russia, from participating.Gubarev, a former advertising agent with a penchant fordressing up like Santa Claus and making cameo appearances inbizarre propaganda videosa penchant fordressing up like Santa Claus and making cameo appearances in bizarre propaganda videos, shot to fame at the beginning of the separatist uprising in February, when he proclaimed himself “people’s governor” of Donetsk and led protesters in storming government buildings in the predominately Russian-speaking eastern metropolis.Soon after, Ukrainian forces arrested Gubarev before releasing him in May in a prisoner exchange. While in jail, he was replaced by another local, Denis Pushilin, who first became prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic before being bumped to chairman after Alexander Borodai, a Russian citizen, replaced him.Since then, Gubarev has enjoyed much less power in Donetsk, moving from a leadership role to one of a commander in the separatists’ “Novorossiya Armed Forces.” He was closely aligned with the onetime top commander and defense minister of the separatists, the Russian Igor Girkin, who is better known by his nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, meaning “Shooter,” before he was also dismissed and returned to Moscow.Gubarev had kept a relatively low profile before the attack. But political infighting and rivalries are ubiquitous in the separatist-controlled regions. The attempt on his life is only the most recent event underscoring the lawlessness that plagues the self-styled people’s republics.On June 2, there was a failed attempt on Gubarev’s life, when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at his ninth-floor office in central Donetsk.Less than a week later, on June 7, an assassination attempt was made against Pushilin. A second attempt on Pushilin occurred on June 12. He survived the attacks, but one of his assistants was shot dead in the first attack, and two others were killed when a car bomb exploded in the second.In all three cases, the assailants were never caught, and Donetsk with rife with rumors that the leaders’ rivals were behind the attacks.Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
Facing new oil glut, Saudis avoid 1980s mistakes to halt price slide By Rania El Gamal6 hours agoA view of the Khurais oilfield, about 160 km (99 miles) from Riyadh, June 23, 2008. REUTERS/Ali Jar … By Rania El Gamal DUBAI (Reuters) – Still haunted by its failed attempt to prevent a steep drop in oil prices by slashing production by almost three quarters in the 1980s, the world’s top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is determined not to make the same mistake again.The oil glut of the 1980s, the early days of the modern crude market and a distant memory for most traders, has resurfaced recently in conversations with Saudi officials and veteran analysts who see it as the defining moment behind the kingdom’s new strategy to protect medium-term market share.While the latest 25 percent slide in oil prices to below $90 a barrel is so far modest compared with the 1980s slump that took crude from $35 to below $10, many observers see similarities in a global market that is on the brink of a pivotal turn from an era of scarcity to one of abundance.Three decades ago, the spike in prices caused by the 1973 Arab oil embargo and Iran’s 1979 revolution sapped global oil demand, while the discovery of oil offshore in the North Sea spurred a new influx of non-OPEC crude.With world markets awash in oil, Saudi Arabia embarked on a strategy of defending prices, which at the time were largely set by exporters rather than the nascent futures market. The kingdom slashed its own output from more than 10 million barrels per day in 1980 to less than 2.5 million bpd in 1985-86.Other producers failed to follow suit, however, both within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and among new petroleum powers such as Britain and Norway. Prices fell into a years-long slump, leading to 16 years of Saudi budget deficits that left the country deeply in debt.Finally, in 1985, Riyadh shifted gears, revving up output and cutting prices in a move that triggered a final slump in markets but ultimately paved the way for a gradual recovery.”The big mistake was that they continued to cut production to try to prop the prices and the price fell anyway,” said analyst Yasser Elguindi of Medley Global Advisors.Instead they should have fought for market share, allowing „higher cost producers to shut in as the price fell – which is what they are doing now.”Shaybah oilfield complex is seen at night in the Rub’ al-Khali desert, Saudi Arabia, November 14 …Last week, Saudi officials briefed oil market participants in New York on the kingdom’s shift in policy, making clear for the first time that Saudi is prepared to tolerate a period of lower prices – perhaps as low as $80 a barrel – in order to retain market share, Reuters reported on Monday.Saudi Arabia is not trying to push oil prices down, an oil source said, but is prepared to let the market find its floor and tolerate lower prices until others in OPEC commit to action. It has already cut selling prices to retain Asian customers.Their message is „don’t expect us to somehow shoulder the responsibility for managing the whole oil market,” said Sadad al-Husseini, a former top executive at state-run Saudi Aramco.Brent crude oil traded below $88 a barrel on Monday, its lowest in almost four years, as traders realize that Saudi Arabia is in no hurry to curb the emerging oil glut. [O/R]1980s GHOSTS The grim circumstances of the 1980s dominated the formative years of King Abdullah’s rule, when as de facto regent during the long illness of his predecessor King Fahd, he embarked on painful economic reforms that paved the way for years of growth.Riyadh this time wants to preempt a price collapse without sacrificing production levels or market share.In the 1980s, it was a drop in U.S. and European consumption coupled with the rise of the North Sea; now it is fears of easing demand from Asia and the unexpected growth of U.S. shale oil.The net effect is the same: An oil market potentially facing years worth of oversupply, a scenario the Saudis and OPEC have not been forced to grapple with since the early 2000s, before the rise of China triggered a decade-long price boom.Fellow Gulf Arab ally and OPEC exporter Kuwait has already said that OPEC is unlikely to cut oil production in an effort to prop up prices because such a move would not necessarily be effective. Venezuela became the first member to call for an emergency meeting to defend $100 oil.OPEC DISUNITY Another similarity: OPEC disunity.During the 1980s, Riyadh learned the hard way that it could not count on fellow OPEC producers, many of whom continued to pump at higher rates than their agreed-upon quotas, leaving Saudi Arabia to bear the brunt of output cuts.Much of the disharmony was on public display. Iran and Iraq were engaged in an eight-year all-out war. Accusations by Iraq that Kuwait had been pumping above its OPEC quota led ultimately to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.It was not until late 1985 that the issue came to a head. The kingdom and OPEC finally agreed to reclaim market share, driving prices down to $10 a barrel but reestablishing themselves in the market. It took 16 years for prices to fully recover.”They decided they had enough – they were the swing producer and they increased production and drove prices down dramatically,” said Dr. Gary Ross, chief executive of PIRA Energy Group, who has followed oil markets since the 1970s.This time around, Riyadh appears to be taking that stance from the start, with a focus on preserving the medium-term revenue of its 266 billion barrels of crude oil reserves rather than chase falling prices and sacrifice their market.”From an economics point of view, it’s much better to let prices go way down,” according to Philip K. Verleger, president of consultancy PKVerleger LLC and a former advisor to President Carter. The emerging price war is „a war of necessity.”(Writing by Rania El Gamal, additional reporting by Jonathan Leff in New York; Editing by Angus McDowall and Marguerita Choy)
North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un reappears with walking stick By Park Chan-Kyong56 minutes ago Seoul (AFP) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has finally resurfaced with the help of a walking stick after a prolonged, unexplained absence that fuelled rampant speculation about his health and even rumours of a coup in the nuclear-armed state.Related Stories
State media on Tuesday reported that Kim, who had not been seen in public for nearly six weeks, made an inspection tour of a newly-built housing complex in Pyongyang and a science institute.The front page of the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun was mostly taken up with a large close-up portrait of a smiling Kim, photographed from the waist upwards.The daily carried smaller, full-length photos showing Kim leaning on a black walking stick in his left hand as he toured the residential complex built for scientists working on North Korea’s satellite programme.The visit was also reported by state TV, but using the same pictures and without any video footage, making it impossible to judge just how mobile Kim was.”Looking over the exterior of the apartment houses and public buildings, decorated with diverse coloured tiles, (Kim) expressed great satisfaction, saying they looked very beautiful,” the official KCNA news agency said.KCNA did not specify the date of the visit, but the agency usually reports such events the day after.North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, seen during an inspection tour of a newly-built housing complex in …It also made no mention of Kim’s absence from the public eye and offered no insight into his physical wellbeing.Kim, believed to be 30 or 31, dropped out of sight after attending a music concert with his wife in Pyongyang on September 3.While there is precedent for a North Korean leader to „disappear” for a while, the absence was more noticeable with Kim, who has maintained a particularly pervasive media presence since coming to power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in late 2011.- Multiple rumours -Competing theories on his disappearance ranged widely from an extended rest period to a leadership coup, via a long list of possible illnesses and ailments including broken ankles, gout and diabetes.The rumours multiplied after Kim failed to attend a major political anniversary event on Friday, at which other top leaders were present.North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R), seen during an inspection tour of a newly-built housing complex …The only North Korean mention of a possible health problem came in a state TV documentary several weeks ago which spoke of Kim’s „discomfort”.Kim, a heavy smoker, has shown striking weight gain since coming to power and recent TV footage had shown him walking with a pronounced limp.”It’s still not clear how much he has recovered from the apparent ‘discomfort’ or how serious it was,” said Kim Yeon-Chul, a North Korea expert at Inje University in the South.”The important thing is that this really corroborates observations by South Korea, China and the United States that Kim is ruling normally.”Given the supreme importance of the leadership of the Kim family dynasty in North Korea, there had been speculation that a further extended absence might lead to a period of instability.His reappearance followed a rare exchange of heavy machine-gun fire over the inter-Korean border on Friday, after the North’s military tried to shoot down some leaflet-laden balloons launched by South Korean anti-Pyongyang activists. – ‘We created the frenzy’ -Some analysts suggested Pyongyang had not moved to silence the rumour mill earlier because it craves international attention, especially attention motivated by uncertainty.”But then it’s not as if they had a plan to not show the leader for a month and let the world go into a frenzy. We created the frenzy ourselves,” said John Delury, a North Korea expert at Yonsei University in Seoul.The North’s propaganda machine has always pushed an image of Kim Jong-Un as young and dynamic, but Delury said it would have little problem spinning the walking stick.”Assuming this is what it looks like — not a life-threatening or debilitating condition — they’ll probably push the line that he hurt himself working for the country and the people,” he said.The narrator of the TV documentary in late September said Kim had kept up his field guidance trips „despite suffering discomfort”.Kim was accompanied on his visit to the residential complex by several top officials including Hwang Pyong-So, the vice chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission who is widely seen as Kim’s number two.Hwang led a top-ranking North Korean delegation that made a surprise visit to the South just over a week ago.
Ivan Eland Become a fan Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty, The Independent Institute Turkey’s Reluctance to Help Against ISIS Should Be a Red FlagPosted: Updated: The questionable continuance of the NATO alliance after the Cold War ended is demonstrated by Turkey’s reluctance to help against the rampaging group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The alliance was originally supposed to defend NATO members against a Soviet attack but, in the post-Cold War era, has expanded in territory and mission (power projection to other parts of the globe). In the current „crisis,” ISIS has been attacking close to Turkey in Kurdish areas along the Turkish-Syrian border and in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. Although the NATO allies, ever led by the United States, have pledged to defend Turkey against ISIS, as NATO’s governing treaty requires for a member state, Turkey has done nothing to help the desperate Kurds fighting the group to keep the town of Kobani on the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border. As usual, the NATO alliance–which long ago became an end in itself to demonstrate U.S. power and prestige, rather than providing the United States any real security–seems rather one-sided. Of course, Turkey, with a huge and capable army deployed along its border with Syria, does not need much help in defending itself from the ragtag ISIS group with only 20,000 to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria–and far fewer along Turkish borders. Finally, the United States had to coerce Turkey into at least letting allied aircraft use the large air base at Incirlik to bomb ISIS in Syria and Iraq.One-sided and out-dated alliances aside, Turkey’s seemingly strange reluctance to see the danger from ISIS should be a red flag to the United States. During the Cold War and after, the hyperactive U.S. superpower has constantly seen local threats as more severe than the countries in a particular region. Yet one would think that regional actors would have a better idea of threats to themselves than a distant colossus, which often behaves like a nervous Nellie. They often do, and thus the United States has leaped into what turned out to be the quagmires of Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan/Afghanistan, and Iraq–in which the threats to the United States turned out to be vastly exaggerated. Turkey’s reluctance to dive into a seeming threat right on its border should be a wake up call to halt the U.S. slide into another bog in Iraq and Syria.Turkey is not helping the desperate Kurds against ISIS across the border in Syria because it fears the Kurds more than it does ISIS. For decades, Turkey has been fighting a civil war with its own Kurdish population that has killed 30,000 people. The Kurds are a stateless people in Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, although they have an autonomous region in Iraq and want one in Syria–both of which the Turks also fear could embolden their own Kurds to want the same, or even independence from Turkey. The bad news for Turkey and the United States is that the most effective fighting force against ISIS has been the Kurdish PKK fighters from Turkey and its YPG Syrian affiliate–not the Peshmerga militias from the Kurdish region of Iraq or the Iraqi Army, both of which had trouble against the group. However, the PKK has also fought the Turks for years, is Marxist, and is on the U.S. terrorism list.And there’s more bad news for the U.S. war effort. In Iraq, the best hope for the United States is to turn the Sunni tribes from supporting Sunni ISIS to fighting it–just as the those same tribes were turned from supporting Sunni al Qaeda in Iraq to supporting the United States during its occupation. The problem is that this trick will be difficult to achieve a second time because before, the United States promised that the U.S-backed, Shi’ite-dominated government in Iraq would allow the minority Sunnis back into the Iraqi military an government bureaucracy. Those promises were broken, and instead the Iraqi Sunni tribes received nothing but oppression from the Iraqi government. Thus, in general, the tribes fear and loathe that government more than they do ISIS. ISIS is so effective largely because of the support from Sunni tribes. Even the few tribes that have partnered with the Shi’ite government have done so very warily.Finally, the Sunni groups battling the Alawite (a branch of Shi’ite Islam) government of Bashar al Assad in Syria hate and fight each other as much as they do that regime. The Free Syrian Army–which is the United States’s only hope for a ground force it can use against ISIS in Syria–is pathetically weak compared to the other groups, such as ISIS and the al Qaeda-affiliated al Nusra.If this all seems to be a complicated morass, it is! Since ISIS is only a threat to the region, not the United States, the United States should avoid taking ISIS’s bait and limit its involvement in the conflict, thus denying the group a tool to recruit added fighters and garner greater monetary contributions. As for Turkey, if the United States does not want to abrogate the NATO alliance (which would be wise but unlikely), the U.S. military should help defend the country with airstrikes if ISIS attacks it but otherwise wish Turkey good luck in dealing with the threats to its region from the Kurds and ISIS.Follow Ivan Eland on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Ivan_Eland14 October 2014 Last updated at 01:29
Bulgaria’s military warned of Soviet-era ‘catastrophe’ Bulgaria relies on Russia for the maintenance and overhaul of its ageing fleet of MiG-29 fighters Related Stories
„Catastrophic consequences” await the Bulgarian armed forces if they are not weaned soon from dependence on old Russian equipment and repairs, according to outgoing Defence Minister Velizar Shalamanov.He was speaking in a BBC interview amid a war of words that has broken out between Bulgaria and Russia over Russian involvement in Ukraine and Russian pressure to speed up work on the South Stream gas pipeline, which will cross Bulgaria.As an EU and Nato member with strong traditional links to Russia, Bulgaria is walking a tightrope between East and West.Bulgaria was said to have frozen work on the Russian gas pipeline project in August, under EU and US pressure. According to Russia, work on the ground continues.‘Extremely unworthy’Tensions between Bulgaria and Russia grew when President Rosen Plevneliev described Russia as „a nationalist and aggressive state” for its involvement in Ukraine.Earlier this year a Soviet war memorial in Sofia was repainted in Ukrainian colours Suggestions from outgoing Defence Minister Shalamanov that Bulgaria might buy used F-16s from Italy or Greece, or Eurofighters from Portugal, prompted Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin to tweet: „News from Bulgaria: a certain Shalamanov has convinced Prime Minister Bliznashki to once again betray Russia… in favour of second-hand eagles.”That comment sparked a reaction from Bulgarian Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov who said such comments were „extremely unworthy, contrary to good manners and show… a lack of respect for Bulgarian institutions”.