Turkey says that it, together with the US, wants an IS-free zone in northern Syria. That is fine. But who will fill the vacuum in areas cleared of IS?
After several months of reluctant negotiations, Turkey has anxiously decided to join the allied battle against the radical Islamists who fight under the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or Islamic State, ISIS, IS). Turkish jets bombed IS strongholds inside Syria, and police detained hundreds of IS supporters operating in Turkey, including two leaders. Moreover, Turkish ministers hastily signed a decree that would allow the U.S. military to use the critical Incirlik air base for strikes against IS targets. Incirlik, in southern Turkey near the Syrian border, is close to many IS strongholds and will cut response times for U.S. aircraft, increasing the efficiency of anti-militant operations.
Turkey says that it, together with the U.S., wants an IS-free zone in northern Syria. That is fine. But who will fill the vacuum in areas cleared of IS? That is an extremely important question Turkey’s American allies should think about with extreme care. Turkey simply finds joining the international campaign against IS an opportunity to install pro-Sunni Islamist rule in areas now controlled by IS.
This is how Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu describes, with all the unrealistic euphemism he could think of, the militias he apparently wishes would replace IS’s brutal Islamists:
“We need to support moderate opposition forces there. Moderate opposition forces means all those forces who are tolerant of other Syrian citizens, who do not commit any terrorist crimes and who do not collaborate with the Syrian regime, which is responsible for all these humanitarian tragedies in the last four, five years.”
The key word here is “moderate.” In all reality, Davutoglu wants to replace extreme Islamists with less extreme Islamists. And the less extreme ones come under a different flag: the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which Turkey has vehemently supported over the past few years, in the hope that it would fight and topple Turkey’s regional nemesis, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.
The FSA was formed in August 2011 by Syrian army deserters, and was based in Turkey. Unsurprisingly, its fighters are 90% Sunni, which explains the real appeal to the Sunni supremacist Davutoglu. The FSA militias are a ragtag group of rebels with a cause: to build a Sunni Islamist Syria, albeit not a Salafist Syria. The group does not have a real structure, money or sophisticated weapons to fight either Assad or the Islamic State.
Members of the Free Syrian Army’s Al-Tawhid Brigade pose for a photo in Aleppo, in 2012. (Image source: Vice video screenshot)
In Syria’s civil war, it is not uncommon to see fighters moving from one group to another. In March, for instance, the US-backed “moderate” rebel group, Harakat Hazzam, disbanded and its members joined extremist groups such as the al-Nusrah Front (ANF), an al-Qaeda offshoot, and the Levant Front, a coalition of rebels, also with ties to al-Qaeda. The ANF has, in addition,picked up thousands of men who once fought under the flag of the FSA.
Almost invariably, the groups fighting in Syria, with varying degrees of violence, are Islamists. If Davutoglu can market the FSA to his American allies, he will be nurturing, on his private agenda, another Islamist group that can potentially become another band of jihadists. Davutoglu is trying to make Syria an extension of Turkey for Muslim Brotherhood Sunni Islam.
In 2012, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued an open letter to opposition groups in Syria, including the FSA, accusing them of carrying out kidnappings, torture and executions. A United Nations-sponsored inquiry commission documented war crimes committed by these groups.
Some FSA-aligned groups have been criticized for having an affiliation with radical Islamists. The group itself was accused of summarily executing innumerable prisoners it held. Furthermore, the UN offered credible allegations against opposition groups, including the FSA, that they wererecruiting children as soldiers. The FSA was mentioned in a 2014 HRW report detailing the widespread practice of using child soldiers — just as the IS is doing. All that is reasonable when you recall that some FSA-aligned brigades are working with hardline Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda and Ahrar Al-Sham.
Such is the profile of the “moderate” rebel group that Turkey supports and tells the U.S. is the “good guys” fighting for democracy in Syria.
In other words, with U.S. help, Turkey wants to build, in parts of Syria, a Sunni Islamist rule, which it hopes will expand into other Syrian regions, finally reaching Damascus.
This may not be a realistic scenario, but even its progress can potentially create new Frankenstein monsters in Syria, with, most likely, “moderate” Islamists taking off their masks and becoming the radicals they in fact are.
Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
The US Treasury added three top Hezbollah figures to its list of sanctioned individuals on Tuesday, including two members of the Lebanese Parliament and a security official responsible for coordinating between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s security agencies.
It was the first time the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control had designated a member of Lebanon’s Parliament under a sanctions list that targets those accused by Washington of providing support to terrorist organizations. Washington has designated Hezbollah as a terrorist group.
South African fans in Cairo celebrating their team’s win over Egypt at the African Cup of Nations. Photo: Reuters / Sumaya Hisham.
Three days after South Africa stunned the world of international soccer by knocking hosts Egypt out of the 2019 African Cup of Nations, the sound of elation remains clearly detectable in the voice of the team’s Jewish midfielder, Dean Furman.
“It was a fantastic victory, just fantastic,” Furman told The Algemeiner during a break in training on Tuesday, as South Africa prepared for its crucial quarterfinal game against Nigeria, another of the continent’s toughest sides, tomorrow.
Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother, Roger, at the Israel
For the second time in recent history, a Dutch Christian organization dedicated to supporting Israel has gone head-to-head with the government. With their family tradition of belief in Israel that preceded the state of Israel by almost one hundred years, it seems unlikely that the van Oordts are about to back down, no matter what the odds.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy made a request from the management of the Israel Products Center (IPC) to ensure they were in compliance with regulations adopted in 2015 by the European Commission requiring products made by Jewish owned companies in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, and sections of Jerusalem to be labeled in a manner indicating their origins.
Studies have shown that dairy cows contribute large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, caused by the organisms living in their microbiomes.
Genetically modifying cows may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and feed world populations, a new study led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev suggests.
“Our findings are both a major breakthrough for basic science and will have a positive impact on two major challenges facing the international community for the foreseeable future: climate change and food security,” Mizrahi said.
The decision by IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi to promote Brig. Gen. Ofer Winter reflects his future political aspirations.
Incoming Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi walks out at the end of a handover ceremony where he replaces Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Jan. 15, 2019.
Israel has its own version of Napoleon’s famous saying, “Every soldier carries a marshal’s baton in his pack.” In these parts, every general carries a prime minister’s baton — or at least that of a defense minister — in his pack
As Islamist Watch has pointed out many times before, Islam is enormously diverse – containing many competing schools of theology, schools of jurisprudence, sects, ethnicities, cultures and mysticisms. Islamism is also not a single force; it comprises dozens of (both) competing and collaborating radical ideologies.
One of the most intriguing divisions, then, within both American Islam and Islamism of late has been growing dissent over the question of liberalism.
Right after Trump’s inauguration, I ran an article about how incredibly fake the news coverage was about his inauguration. (Those reading my site know I’m not a big Trump fan, but credit where credit is due and calling fake where calling fake is due.) The media was nothing short of spectacularly fake in the news it contrived that week on CNN, the New York Times and the other major fake media, and they mostly got away with it.
It wasn’t condescension or contempt. Recent remarks by former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit reek of racism. That is the proper way to frame them, calling them anything else is letting him off easy. In its classic, formal sense, racism is when a certain social sector perceives itself as superior because of clear racial criteria. Shavit represents an updated version of racism that doesn’t require ethnicity or religion as proof of a defect – you can call it “essential racism.”
Little Napoleon Barak is going to save Israeli Democracy? What a bunch of claptrap Orwellian doublespeak.
Well let’s check out history. How well did the original Napoleon save France’s democratic revolution against the monarchy?
Hmm, if I recall he crowned himself emperor!
For years, the pundits have been telling us that Israeli democracy is in danger because of the Arab birthrate, or because of the Jewish nation-state law, or because of the debates over the powers of Israel’s High Court.
I wonder if they will recognize the danger posed by the 10 left-wing American Jewish organizations that have formed a new umbrella organization, the essential purpose of which is to undermine Israeli democracy.