Now, the whole rationale Trump put forward for the retreat — to get American troops out of the Mideast and “endless wars” — is in doubt.
Rather than leaving the region, the withdrawing troops will deploy in neighboring Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, which could get new life from the Syrian turmoil. Some U.S. forces are still in eastern Syria, helping Kurdish fighters protect oilfields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he was discussing keeping them there.
Trump surprised even his own military on the ground when he agreed to remove U.S. soldiers working with Kurdish-led forces near the border in an Oct. 6 phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three days later, Turkey launched its offensive with heavy bombardment along the border.
Kurdish defense elements may represent an amalgam of Kurdish interests largely beneath the authoritarian semi-socialist umbrella of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK). Conceived in the Far Left zeitgeist of the 1970s, an era saturated in and partially shaped by agent provocateur, disinformation, and money pouring off of Russia’s “Active Measures” programs, the PKK appears to have followed the pattern known to other Soviet-associated “liberation fronts” in relation to ruthless consolidations of power, funding through criminal means, and the launching of violent revolutionary actions against forces impeding organizational ambitions, concepts, and ends.
In 2013, Erdogan promised to recognize Kurdish identity and language, and increase Kurdish liberties. A truce followed, but hostilities resumed in 2015. Erdogan said he was responding to PKK terrorism. The PKK claimed Erdogan destroyed the ceasefire by building dams and security stations in Kurdish regions. In either case, a war was on. Erdogan attacked with helicopter gunships, artillery and armored divisions, murdering thousands and displacing 335,000 mainly Kurdish citizens. A UN report described destroyed villages as moonscapes.
The recruitment of mixed Kurdish forces to fight ISIS necessarily involved diplomatic magic as some best trained and experienced in the business of fighting were to become those fighting Assad’s idea of “The Terrorists” — ISIS.
Here’s a section representing one starting point — the American State Department’s continuing designation of the PKK as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” — and both the required finesse to shift popular impression plus an expression of America’s intent to defend its Kurdish allies (and front line) in the effort to defeat Islamic State —
The Department of State has reviewed and maintained the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), pursuant to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended (8 U.S.C. § 1189). The PKK was originally designated as an FTO in 1997.
. . . .
Today’s actions notify the U.S. public and the international community that the PKK remains a terrorist organization. In addition to its continued status as an FTO, the PKK has also been designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224 since 2001.
BackChannels refers often to the “Phantoms of the Soviet”, a mixture of KGB-Era ideas, methods, personalities, and relationships that have for about 26 years outlived the Soviet Union. Wherever cultivated, the same have fairly suspended geopolitical space in the barbarism and political repression best associated with feudal / medieval political absolutism.
The PKK’s role in potential Turkish-Russian escalation should be viewed through the lens of Moscow’s deep historic ties with the group — and with Damascus. In the 1970s, the PKK was established with Soviet support in the Beqa Valley of Syrian-occupied Lebanon. As one of two NATO countries boasting a land border with the Soviet Union, Turkey was considered Moscow’s soft underbelly during the Cold War, providing Washington with numerous assets such as listening bases capable of intercepting communications across the Black Sea. The Russians saw the PKK as a means of undercutting a key U.S. ally.
The PKK also enjoyed support from Bashar al-Assad’s father, Hafiz, who cast his regime as the champion of Turkish Kurds despite oppressing Syria’s own Kurdish community. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan lived in Damascus while his group ran training camps in Lebanon and used Syrian territory to attack Turkey.
Moscow’s support for the PKK eventually dissipated with the end of the Cold War and the emergence of pressing political and economic problems at home. Syria ended its own support in 1998, after Ankara threatened Damascus with war for supporting what had become a terribly destructive PKK campaign throughout Turkey. As part of this abrupt shift, Hafiz al-Assad expelled Ocalan.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) emerged from the radical ferment that swept the Western world in the 1960s. It was founded in 1978 as a Marxist-Leninist organisation infused with Kurdish nationalism and a cult of personality around its leader, Abdullah Ocalan. The PKK spent much of this period attacking other Kurdish and left-wing groups, and its own dissidents – hundreds of whom would be killed over the years – in an attempt to monopolise the support base for its ideas.
While BackChannels happily and humbly defers to The Henry Jackson Society’s wizard of political science, Kyle Orton, it recognizes inherent value in the Kurdish community as singular among the world’s ethnic and tribal cohorts and with that equally inherent rights to autonomous self-determination and dignity — in defense terms: freedom from cultural and religious persecution.
BackChannels, being neither international organization or potent state, however may best demur to an analyst closer to the issues and altogether more experienced — in this instance, Michael Rubin of The American Enterprise Institute:
More importantly, PKK tactics have changed: There remains low-level military insurgency, but gone are the days when the PKK targets Turkish civilians (alas, the reverse is not true with regard to Turkish forces and Kurdish civilians, as the residents of Cizre, Nusaybin, and Sur can attest). Certainly, breakaway factions of the PKK such as the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) have claimed attacks, but such factionalism is common when former terrorists come in from the cold. That was the case with the “ Real IRA ” which emerged after the IRA entered into a peace process in Northern Ireland.
A little more than six months ago, BackChannels published “Moscow as Medusa with All the Snakes Attached” (January 2, 2019), and what it had had in mind was Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leveraging of arrangements involving leadership in several EU / NATO states fit for the flattering of an emperor. He had President Erdogan apologizing to him for shooting down two MIGs overflying Turkish air space (and, lo and behold, the “Turkish Stream” energy project got back on its feet) and, later (about now), purchasing Russian air defense technology suited to knocking NATO air power out of the sky . . . .
So here with the above in mind is reference to “east-west” and “medieval v modern” conflict that continues to validate the idea of the presence of the “Phantoms of the Soviet” and their generally impeding progress toward modern governance in the near and middle east:
The Kurds have historically played an important role in Russian efforts to exert its influence in the Middle East. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used the Kurds to bypass America’s containment strategy in the region.
Shortly after World War II, Moscow supported the creation of the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan to increase its influence in the region. After the Iranian army crushed the Kurdish forces, the fighters led by Mustafa Barzani took refuge in the Soviet Union.
Political analyst Gonul Tol appears in the third video featured in the next section, which presents another set of impressions having to do with the Kurdish struggle for Kurdish autonomy and unification.
A narrative through which the Palestinians have been lied too for more than 70 years is not something either Israelis or Palestinians need to or should respect. The soul of the conflict sustained by PLO / PA has to do with (genocidal) Palestinian intentions for Israel far more than the history of the place, and those old lies, that propaganda from another age, need to drift into the past and, at some point, be sealed in it.
What was the lie?
It has gone something like this: “The Jews stole your land and God wants you to seize it back!”
As lies may, this whopper apparently sounds true to the disinformed, ill-educated, impressionable, and simple minded, but it is not a true statement — and for that not the kind of thought intended to improve the lives of Palestinians in any meaningful dimension, financial, physical, psychological, or spiritual.
What that lie has done is simply deflect attention from marauding, mediocre, and murderous “leaders” and their sponsors who have used the same to promote worldviews — there have been two or more broad inventions (Pan-Arab Nationalism; Islamic Extremism) — certain to serve their own egos, social standing (in politically disciplined circles), and wallets.
Russia has made an art of amplifying the resentments of their marks — those who will serve them — and enraging them.
For the Palestinian main base there has been no end to subjugation by the PLO/PA and Hamas and related abuse, corruption, and neglect. For Palestinians in the Diaspora — and for the hipsters on the Far Left that endorse counterproductive and misery-sustaining efforts like the “Boycott Divestiture and Sanctions (BDS) Movement” — there hasn’t been a better time to have an independent look into any of the following:
Hamas Human Rights Abuses and Political Repression
Israeli Expansion Via Defensive Arab Wars of Annihilation
Ottoman Administration of the Land Registry of the Region
Palestinian Economic Development and Marketing and Shipping To and Through Israel
Palestinian-Serving Qualified Enterprise Zone Programs
Asked of a child: “Who controls the camp?” — “Young militants control the camp, and when the Israeli army comes we throw stones at them. the army doesn’t come here a lot, and there is no authority here. We have nothing.” (05:38).
Oh, Palestinians — yon Jews never stole your land and ye shall know the 1948 and post-1948 truth about that war, about the Arab apartheid camps of your world, and about the “leaders” delivering the drugs, failing to sweep the streets, failing to guarantee the safety of basic housing and water and electrical supply.
Think about those words out of a child’s mouth: “There is no authority here.“
BackChannels has news for you: wherever the Soviet has meddled and Russia to this day maintains old criminal and feudal relationships, “there is no authority” but over and around the inner circles of absolute and capricious power.
For the feudal lords of the Gaza and the West Bank — and the handlers and greater powers of Moscow and Tehran — the Palestinian main base doesn’t really matter.
Money in their own pockets matters much more.
The streets of Shuafat have been left to become garbage strewn and rat infested while the minds of Palestinian children, generation upon generation, are made to entertain lies about their historic and political origins, about the Jews, the west, capitalism, democracy, humanism . . . everything.
“There is no authority here.”
In place of authority, what is there in Shuafat?
Vanity – a malign, merciless, and unyielding vanity on the part of those who would live well off the dispensing of misery to their communities.
What is good?
For the purposes of governance, perhaps start with authentic culture, education, opportunity, service.
The Palestinians have gotten the mind fuck of all times in the dishonest framing of their predicament — thank the KGB and some generations of middle east leaders and compliant local powers for that.
The Cold War, the Soviet Era, has been over for more than 27 years. In its place: a mash-up of Russian feudal and mafia-style power.
Perhaps in the Shuafat enclave in Jerusalem, some should demand of their “leadership”, UNRWA, of themselves — even so young as to be able to say, “There is no authority here” — and of Israel adequate basic services plus authentic education and information subject to each their own inquiry and independence of mind, i.e., the end of the political suppression of the lawful, moderate, and optimistic.
It’s a trope here on BackChannels, and it has an analog:
“Feudal Political Absolutism v Democratic Checked and Distributed Power”
More state of mind than state, “Kurdistan” has already its “Medieval v Modern” civil separation, and perhaps unwittingly, the Soviet-Era PKK, a NATO and U.S. State Department designated terrorist organization, remains mired in the flipped absolutism of the Bolshevik Revolution.
Another BackChannels trope, this one about Russia: “Two major revolutions in one-hundred years (1917-2017), three forms of government, and not one change in the nation’s affections in relation to ‘paternal authoritarianism'”.
For that last label, “paternal authoritarianism”, credit the late scholar Richard Pipes, but BC will not be looking up the specific source at this time.
The affection for strongmen — and perhaps helplessness before their “politically absolute” organizations — has the medieval world clawing the modern one backward.
Of course, the defectors from medieval worlds, those made refugee by them, those left bereft and without defenses, essentially drain the tapped resources of the same, leaving those worlds to become spiritually hollow, absent of conscience, lacking in their own humanity, and burnt out and purposeless.
Moscow, that “Third Rome”, has deals — call it what it is: “leverage” — with everyone: Assad, Khamenei, Hezbollah — low-hanging fruit: the “Syrian Tragedy”, BackChannel’s term, could not have taken place without Moscow’s endorsement and direct military support in arms and occasional actions (like bombing hospitals); Erdogan: “Turkish Stream” – Big Energy project demanding Ankara’s cooperation with Moscow: France – Marine Le Pen and the Newest Nationalism — but France is more brave in its defense of its still revolutionary democracy — Le Pen lost her bid for the presidency; Germany – energy supply dependence; Hungary – Orban’s bromance and narcissism; USA – only Mueller knows . . .
FTAC: From the BackChannels Reading Page on Facebook, January 2, 2019
The Phantoms of the Soviet, a government dissolved in bankruptcy more than 26 years ago, continue to haunt or shadow the Kurdish Community in its bid for survival against the emergent Turkish Sultanate, as BackChannels views it, still supported by NATO, and ISIS, which is “handled” by Damascus as flanked by Moscow and Tehran.
In the ganglion of the Syrian Tragedy, too many threads lead back to Moscow — and Moscow has well demonstrated its peculiar absence of conscience in the general support of Assad the Tyrant, its own repeated bombings of Syrian hospitals, and its defense of Iranian advanced missile manufacturing.
Moscow has also partnered with Ankara on the Turkish Stream energy project.
The true battle is one having to do with time: the medieval world of feudal absolute power — the power known to the world’s dictatorships, none of them responsible to either the Earth or Humanity — wishes to overrun the modern one built on the freedom accompanying democratically checked and distributed power.
According to Gutman, the Kurds appear stuck with both old habits of mind and with the organizational habits that have flowed down from the Soviet Era.
Of late, Kurdish representatives online have taken to pairing the United States and NATO with the backing of Turkey, a state no longer even proto-democratic and one long bent on the cultural annihilation of the Kurds. While the rhetoric may be shrugged away, the character of the PKK, well described by Roy Gutman (as cited) but also by Kyle Orton (as referenced below) may not be so easily covered over or glossed.
What portion of the Kurdish People remain behind or with the PKK?
That’s an open question for BackChannels.
Defectors from the conscripted ranks of the organization apparently (so noted by Gutman) have some options within “Kurdistan”, but the impression made by the Soviet affiliate would today repulse all humanity-, freedom-, and peace-loving advocates of influence in western politics who would otherwise more enthusiastically support a true indigenous people’s striving for autonomy and self-determination.
The flag better known to represent “Kurdistan” in the west (as judged at least by the “Flag of Kurdistan” page on Wikipedia):
During the seven-year course of the KGB Theater’s Production — call it “guided” (most likely) — of “Assad v The Terrorists”, Bashar al-Assad has managed to barrel bomb half his state into rubble and destroy or displace nearly half of his population (as known in 2011). He has won for his efforts the expansion of Russian and Iranian military interests on his formerly sovereign property and through related sadism — reference: Sednaya Prison — lost entirely the respect of the modern world.
As regards Soviet / post-Soviet alignment with Moscow, much less Damascus, the Kurds may not expect to sustain their alignment with the ruthless (who would even provide the useful enemy known as ISIS) while currying the favor of the democratic, humanist, liberal, and deeply socialized west.
Assad the Tyrant, using snipers to make his statement — and arresting school children to make it clear — turned a modest popular protest into possibly the most sadistic “civil war” on earth and in history. Unrivaled in its abuses of noncombatant Syrians, he managed to destroy his state, for all intents, and have it serve as a platform for Hezbollah, the Russian Army, and sundry attempts (impeded by Israel) at the manufacturing and delivery of advanced missiles for launching in southern Lebanon.
The Soviet Union collapsed in bankruptcy 26 years ago this December 25.
It turns out that Soviet / Post-Soviet Russia has become truly the “Mafia State” — Luke Harding’s term — and not the least reformed as an aggressive and barbarous monstrosity.
Prompt: the claim that had the west stayed out of Syria, Syrians would be happily alive and domiciled.
Screen capture, LiveUAMap, December 23, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. EST.