Liberal und International
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Udo von Massenbach Premium Member Group moderator11 Jun 2012, 1:24 pm
KUWAIT: Dozens of Kuwaitis are fighting with the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) after crossing from Turkey, Al-Qabas newspaper reported yesterday, citing the fighters’ relatives. The daily said that “dozens of Kuwaitis have crossed the Turkish-Syrian border with the aim of fighting alongside the FSA against Syrian regime forces”. Relatives of the fighters said they were in contact with them and that “there are large groups from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Pakistan” ready to join the uprising against President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime that broke out in March last year.
According to the paper, the volunteers are given Syrian IDs as a precautionary measure in case they are arrested, before they are armed and sent to fight in different locations across the troubled country. The sources added the Syrian rebels sent back a number of Kuwaiti fighters who were less than 18 years of age. Calls to fight alongside the FSA have multiplied in recent weeks on online social networks in Saudi Arabia. In response, the kingdom’s top religious body issued an edict last week prohibiting Saudis from fighting against Assad’s regime without prior approval from the government. The FSA consists mainly of former troops who have deserted the regular army in protest against the government’s bloody crackdown.
Separately, the new head of Syria’s main opposition group said yesterday the regime is on its last legs, as the death toll in the uprising topped 14,000 amid calls for military defections and civil disobedience. “We are entering a sensitive phase. The regime is on its last legs,” Kurdish activist Abdel Basset Sayda told AFP shortly after being named the new leader of the opposition Syrian National Council (SNC). “The multiplying massacres and shellings show that it is struggling,” he said of mass deaths of civilians, the most recent of which saw 20 people, mostly women and children, killed in a bombardment of the southern city of Daraa Saturday.
At his first press conference since taking over the reins, Sayda called on all members of the Damascus regime to defect, while reaching out to minority groups by promising them a full say in a future, democratic Syria. “We call upon all officials in the regime and in the institutions to defect from the regime,” Sayda told reporters in Istanbul.
The FSA meanwhile called for a campaign of mass “civil disobedience,” and also urged officers and troops in Assad’s regime to jump ship and join the rebel ranks. “We call on Syrians to launch a general strike leading to mass civil disobedience,” FSA spokesman in Syria Colonel Kassem Saadeddine said in a statement. He urged officers and men in Syria’s regular army “whose hands are not tainted with blood to join the fighters”. He said that for the FSA, “the hour of liberation and change has come”. “Soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers are called upon to join the rebellion and the ranks of the Free Syrian Army,” he said.
New SNC chief Sayda replaced Paris-based academic Burhan Ghalioun, who stepped down last month in the face of mounting splits that were undermining the group’s credibility. Activists accused Ghalioun of ignoring the Local Coordination Committees, which spearhead anti-government protests on the ground in Syria, and of giving the Muslim Brotherhood too big a role. Sayda, 55, has lived in exile in Sweden for two decades and is seen as a consensus candidate capable of reconciling the rival factions within the SNC and of broadening its appeal among Syria’s myriad of ethnic and confessional groups. He is not in any political party, and SNC officials call him a “conciliatory” figure, “honest” and “independent”.
Sayda reached out to minority groups in Syria, following criticism of the SNC for failing to represent the country’s full array of ethnic and religious groups including Arabs, Kurds, Sunni Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Druze and others. “We would like to reassure all sects and groups, especially Alawites and Christians, that the future of Syria will be for the all of us,” he said. “There will be no discrimination based on gender or sects. The new Syria will be a democratic state.”
“The Annan plan still exists but it has not been implemented,” Sayda said of a peace blueprint thrashed out by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan that was supposed to begin with a ceasefire from April 12 but which has been violated daily. “We will work for this plan to be included under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, to force the regime to implement it and to leave all options open,” Sayda said. Chapter VII allows for sanctions and, in extreme cases, military action.
Russia and China, infuriated by the NATO campaign in Libya last year, have vowed to oppose any military intervention, but British Foreign Secretary William Hague refused on Sunday to rule out the possibility. “We don’t know how things are going to develop. Syria is on the edge of a collapse or of a sectarian civil war, and so I don’t think we can rule anything out,” Hague told Sky News television. He said Syria now resembled Bosnia in the 1990s. “It is not so much like Libya last year, where we had, of course, a successful intervention to save lives,” Hague said. “It is looking more like Bosnia in the 1990s, of being on the edge of a sectarian conflict in which neighbouring villages are attacking and killing each other.”
The violence has intensified despite the presence of 300 United Nations observers charged with monitoring the putative truce. On Saturday, at least 111 people – 83 civilians and 28 soldiers – were killed in one of the heaviest single-day death tolls since the nominal start of the ceasefire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It also reported at least 29 people killed nationwide yesterday, among them 11 soldiers. The latest deaths bring to more than 14,100 the number of people killed since March last year, including 9,862 civilians, 3,470 soldiers and 783 army deserters, the Observatory said.
Hundreds of rebels remained holed up in Latakia province, a loyalist stronghold on the Mediterranean coast. The army sent reinforcements to the mainly Alawite province where rebels have grouped in a Sunni Muslim enclave around the town of Al-Heffa, the Observatory said. Nearly 60 soldiers have died since June 5 in battles with opposition fighters in the enclave, which lies some 50 km from the Turkish border. At least 46 civilians and rebels have also been killed. – Agencies
Udo von Massenbach Premium Member Group moderator22 Jul 2012, 09:11 am
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Firefighters in southeast Turkey on Saturday put out a fire on a pipeline carrying about a quarter of Iraq's oil exports, but it was unclear when oil would resume flowing, security sources said.
They blamed sabotage by Kurdish separatists for the explosion on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.
The fire broke out at 11 p.m. (1700 EDT) on Friday near the town of Midyat in Mardin province, near the Syrian border.
Officials blamed the attack on the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a Kurdish separatist group that has claimed responsibility for past attacks on the 960-km (600-mile) pipeline.
Firat News, a website with ties to the PKK, also said the outlawed group was behind the attack.
Insurgents in Iraq have in the past disrupted the transport of oil on the pipeline, the country's largest, and technical faults on the 35-year-old link, which consists of two pipes, have also cut flows.
The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984, and more than 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died in the conflict.
The PKK has claimed responsibility for attacks on other natural-gas and oil pipelines in what it has calls a campaign to target Turkey's strategic assets.
Udo von Massenbach Premium Member Group moderator28 Jul 2012, 1:44 pm
Turkish foreign policy, codified by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, used to be known in shorthand as "zero problems with our neighbors". When Turkey started calling for regime change in Syria, it turned into "a major problem with one of our neighbors" (even tough Davutoglu himself admitted on the record the policy change failed).
Now, in yet another twist, it's becoming "all sorts of problems with two of our neighbors". Enter - inevitably - Ankara's ultimate taboo; the Kurdish question.
Ankara used to routinely chase and bomb Kurdish PKK guerrillas crossing from Anatolia to Iraqi Kurdistan. Now it may do itself to do the same in Syrian Kurdistan.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came out all guns blazing on Turkish TV; "We will not allow a terrorist group to establish camps in northern Syria and threaten Turkey."
He was referring to the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) - affiliated with the PKK; after a quiet deal with the Assad regime in Damascus, the PYD is now in control of key areas in northeast Syria.
So Ankara may provide logistics to tens of thousands of Syria's NATO "rebels" - which include plenty of hardcore Sunni Arab "insurgents" formerly known as terrorists; but as long as Syrian Kurds - which are part of the Syrian opposition - demonstrate some independence, they immediately revert to being considered "terrorists".
It's all conditioned by Ankara's immediate nightmare; the prospect of a semiautonomous Syrian Kurdistan very closely linked to Iraqi Kurdistan.
Follow the oil
This Swedish report  contains arguably the best breakdown of the hyper-fragmented Syrian opposition. The "rebels" are dominated by the exile-heavy Syrian National Council (SNC) and its Hydra-style militias, the over 100 gangs that compose the Not Exactly Free Syrian Army (FSA).
But there are many other parties as well, including socialists; Marxists; secular nationalists; Islamists; the Kurdish National Council (KNC) - an 11-party coalition very close to the Iraqi Kurdistan government; and the PYD.
The KNC and the PYD may bicker about everything else, but basically agree on the essential; the civil war in Syria shall not penetrate Syria Kurdistan; after all, when it comes to the nitty gritty, they are neither pro-Assad nor pro-opposition; they favor Kurdish interests. The agreement was sealed under the auspices of their cousins - the Iraqi Kurds. And it explains why they are now in full control of a de facto Kurdish enclave in northeast Syria.
As much as Turkish paranoia may apply, it's a long and winding road from a semi-autonomous area to an independent Kurdistan agglutinating Kurds in both Syria and Iraq - not to mention, in the long run, Turkish Kurds. Yet half of a possible, future, independent Kurdistan would indeed be Turkish. Ankara's nightmare in progress is that the closer Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistan get, the merrier the agitation among Turkish Kurds in Anatolia.
Priorities though divert; the bottom line for Iraqi Kurds is independence from Baghdad. After all; they have loads of oil. On the other hand Syria Kurdistan has none. This means, crucially, no role in regional Pipelineistan.
This concerns above all two strategic oil and gas pipelines from Kirkuk to Ceyhan - a direct deal between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds which in theory bypasses Baghdad.
Well, not really. As Baghdad has made it clear, there's no way these pipelines will be operative without the central government having its sizeable cut; after all it pays for 95% of the budget of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Show me your terrorist ID
Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani told al-Jazeera  that yes - they are training Syrian Kurds who defected from the Syrian Army to defend their de facto enclave. It was Barzani who supervised the key deal sealed in Irbil on July 11 that led to Assad forces retreating from Syrian Kurdistan.
What is being described as "liberated cities"  is now being "jointly ruled" by the PYD and the KNC. They have formed what is known as a Supreme Kurdish Body.
One can never underestimate the Kurdish capacity to shoot themselves in the foot (and elsewhere). Yet one can also imagine all this cross-country Kurdish frenzy terrifying quite a few souls in Istanbul and Ankara. This  columnist for the daily newspaper Hurriyet got it right; "Arabs are fighting, Kurds are winning." The Kurdish Spring is at hand. And it is already hitting Turkey's borders.
Davutoglu must have seen it coming; when a formerly "zero problem" foreign policy evolves into housing the weaponized opposition to a neighboring government, you're bound to be in trouble.
Especially when you start itching to kill "terrorists" living in your neighbor's territory - even though your Western allies may view them as "freedom fighters". Meanwhile you actively support Salafi-jihadis - "insurgents" formerly known as terrorists - back and forth across your borders.
An increasingly erratic Erdogan has invoked a "natural right"  to fight "terrorists". But first they must produce an ID; if they are Sunni Arab, they get away with it. If they are Kurdish, they eat lead.
Notes: 1. See here
2. Iraqi Kurds train their Syrian brethren, Al-Jazeera, 23 Jul 2012
3. See Iraq's Kurdistan Peshmerga forces will be called into Syria when needed, PYD Leader says, Kurd Net, July 26, 2012
4. The Arab Spring has transformed into the Kurdish Spring, Hurriyet Daily News, July 27 2012
5. PM declares Syria intervention a ‘natural right’, Hurriyet Daily News, July 27 2012