Sunday, October 11, 2015

Putin: Operation in Syria would be limited by the Syrian army’s offensive

Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Sunday that the time frame of the Russian military operation in Syria would be limited by the Syrian army’s offensive.
Putin added in an interview with Russia 1 TV channel that the Russian military mission in Syria aims at working to secure stability and create the conditions for a political solution to the crisis.
Answering a question about whether Russia would take part in ground operation in Syria, “This is out of question,” Putin told Russia TV channel, adding “Whatever happens, we’re not going to do this, and our Syrian friends know about it.”
“We have absolutely no desire to recreate the empire,” or interfere in any sectarian conflicts, said Putin.
The Russian President made it clear that Syria operation was well-planned beforehead, it was not some spontaneous action.
“We have continuously carried out aerial and space reconnaissance, comparing the data we obtained from different sources, and the specialists from the General Staff… in coordination with their partners established, as you know, the Information Center in Baghdad,” Putin explained.
He renewed stress that Russia informed its “partners in the United States, many other partners, especially in the region of the Middle East about our intentions and our plans,” noting that Moscow is not losing hope that other countries will join its operation in Syria.
Putin emphasized that the simplest way to fight terrorists is that foreign partners join Russia in its efforts to combat terrorism since Russia had gotten the approval of the official authorities in Syria to conduct air strikes, noting that many leaders in the Middle East countries are well aware of the threat of terrorism and ready to participate in combating terrorism.
The Russian President pointed out that the United States planned to train 12000 militant within the training program of the so-called Free Army. Later, they reduced the number to 6000 but at the end they trained 60 militants, only four or five of them fought ISIS terrorists.
“They spent 500 million dollars for that .. It would have been better if the United States gave us these millions and we would have used them in a better way in combating terrorism,” Putin added.
The threat of terrorism exists in many countries but Islamic countries and Russia can be the victims in the first place, Putin said.
“The terrorist threat looms over many countries in the region… It is us, the countries of the region, the Islamic countries, who are the first victims of terrorism, and are willing to fight them,” the Russian president said.
The risk of terrorists’ involvement in terrorist operations in Russia has been there even before conducting military operations in Syria, he added.
Putin pointed out that supplying the Russian troops with the most developed weapons is not related to what is happening in Syria, but it is a decision taken ten years ago when necessary plans and tasks were laid out.

Assad’s future remains apple of discord among parties to Syria’s crisis

The large-scale offensive which Syria’s government army launched on Thursday against the positions of Islamic State militants with Russia’s air support has brought to the forefront the issue of Syria’s future political system after the victory over the IS has been achieved, polled experts have told TASS. In the meantime, the future of Bashar Assad as the head of state remains an apple of discord among the countries and parties involved in settling the Syrian crisis.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week said the struggle with terrorism must proceed alongside the political process in Syria. "The Syrian president agrees with this. He is prepared to call early parliamentary elections, establish contact with the sound opposition and invite it into running the nation," Putin said. For the first time ever since the beginning of the Syrian crisis Assad told Iranian television in an interview on Monday he would be prepared to step down, if that decision of his would settle the crisis. But it is entirely up to the people to decide who would be their next president, Assad said. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel insists Syria should start a political process with representatives of the Syrian opposition and the government in Damascus taking part. And President Francois Hollande, of France, too, has pointed to the usefulness of pooling efforts by the authorities in Damascus and the Syrian opposition in the struggle against the Islamic State.
The president of the Religion and Politics Institute, Aleksandr Ignatenko, believes that "the shift of Western politicians’ emphasis from the demand for Assad’s resignation to the need for starting a political process in Syria is a good sign ruling out a solution from the position of strength."
"A political process implies the establishment of institutions of power, which cannot be done in the context of the civil war in Syria and the struggle against the Islamic State. It will be wrong to place the cart before the horse. But while the struggle against the radical Islamists continues, it might be possible for the ruling coalition and the opposition to meet for talks, conferences and round-table discussions, in other words, to continue the Geneva process with the aim to find a way out of the dead end. The probability is high the Syrian people will elect a different man, not Bashar Assad, as their president," Aleksandr Ignatenko said.
The leading research fellow at the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, believes that Assad’s statement he would agree to resign, if that helped settle the crisis in Syria was nothing but "rhetoric." "Who is the man Assad will be able to hand power over to? There is no worthy personality on Syria’s political landscape at the moment. As for the Syrian opposition abroad, whose delegation we welcomed at our institute on five or six occasions, it represents nobody but itself and has no forces inside the country to rely on," Dolgov told TASS.
"Since the Syrian crisis began I’ve been to Damascus twice, and I have first-hand experience that more than one-third of the country’s population is connected with Assad’s regime and supports him in his struggle against the Islamic State. He is the sole leader that unites IS opponents. The Syrian people pin their hopes for a peaceful future on this man," Dolgov said.
Turkey’s ambassador to Russia Umit Yardim whose country is a member of NATO, strongly disagrees with this. "The Assad regime has no future and the Syrian crisis will remain insoluble without a diplomatic solution of the Assad problem," Yardim told TASS at a reception at his residence in Moscow on Thursday.
He claims the influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey is a result of Assad’s rule. "Turkey has had to accommodate 2.5 million Syrian refugees, including one million children. As many as 350,000 children from refugee families need education in Turkey and 250,000 Syrians are staying at refugee camps. Turkey has to spend $7-8 billion a year to support all those who have fled from the civil war in Syria."
Yardim sees a solution of the "Assad problem" in drafting road maps for establishing a new system of government in Syria after victory over the Islamic State.

Avoiding Crisis: US Aircraft Ordered to Make Way for Russian Jets in Syria

In the wake of US-Russian discussions on preventing accidental collisions between each others' aircraft while operating in the sky over Syria, the American side issued a special rule, prohibiting US jets from closely approaching Russian planes.

Defense representatives of both nations conducted a video conference on safe flight operations over Syria on Saturday, CNN reported.
During the negotiations, they discussed ways of avoiding any possible incidents between Russian and American air forces during air raids in the sky over Syria.
The US has implemented a decree that forbids American pilots from getting any nearer than 32.2 kilometers (20 miles) to Russian jets while flying over Syria. Moreover, if Russian aircraft is detected in the area of US military operation, any American forces are obliged to cancel their operations in the area. Several US air raids have already been cancelled under that rule.
According to CNN, the US is concerned about the possible scenario in which a pilot would be forced to eject over Syrian territory, and situations like this are unacceptable for Russia as well.
Pentagon representatives said that the hour-and-a-half meeting was “productive,” and Russian media sources reported a Russo-American agreement on the issue. So far that document hasn’t been revealed publicly.

These negotiations are not the first instance of such meetings. Talks between Russians and Americans to guarantee the safety of their respective flight operations over Syria have been carried out for the last two weeks.

Both sides have now moved on to discussions about preventing approaches into Turkish airspace, considered to be an important issue for the US, but also for its NATO allies.
During the recent series of Russian air raids against ISIL, militants suffered significant losses, according to CNN.  The Russian defense ministry claimed that Russian military struck at least 55 ISIL targets, destroying the most crucial logistics centers of militants.

Read more:

Intercepted ISIS comms show 'growing panic' after Russian airstrikes - combat report

Russian Air Forces have extended the range of their airstrikes on Islamic State positions in Syria to four provinces, focusing primarily on demolishing fortified installations and eliminating supply bases and the terrorists' infrastructure.
Over the last 24 hours Russian aircraft have attacked terrorist positions in the Hama, Idlib, Latakia and Raqqa provinces of Syria. In total, 64 sorties targeted 63 Islamic State installations, among them 53 fortified zones, 7 arms depots, 4 training camps and a command post.
The airstrikes were carried out by Sukhoi Su24M and Su-34 bombers and Su-25SM assault aircraft, with Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets ensuring air escort for the assault groups.
“Having accomplished combat assignments, all aircraft of the task force operating in Syria successfully returned to the Khmeimim airbase,” said the spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov.
Radio intercept data has revealed “growing panic” among Islamic State militants, according to Konashenkov. He added that IS field commanders have urged senior staff to expedite supply armament and military equipment, as well as to redeploy reinforcements from Raqqa province as a result of Russia’s air bombardment.
In the vicinity of the city of Saraqib in northwest Syria, an artillery position known for inflicting strikes on the nearby residential areas has been exposed and eliminated.
A group of Sukhoi Su-24M bombers attacked a terrorist field headquarters near the village of Salma in northwest Syria. This command post has been coordinating operations of the militants in whole of the Latakia province.
“A direct hit of a guided KAB-500 air bomb completely destroyed a building with militant commanders inside," the Defense Ministry’s spokesperson reported. “The airstrike also eliminated five SUVs with ZU-23 double-barreled 23mm anti-aircraft guns mounted on them that were parked nearby.”
A Sukhoi Su-24M bomber attacked a thoroughly concealed position of SUVs with mortar launchers mounted on them near the village of Kafer-Delba. As a result of the attack, a mobile sub-artillery battery consisting of four vehicles was eliminated.
Aerial reconnaissance discovered a stronghold of terrorists near the village of Achan. A pinpoint airstrike carried out by Su-24M aircraft eliminated the installation, along with an ammunition and logistics depot.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, also said that the Russian and American armed forces have held a second video conference regarding the operation in Syria. The two sides discussed in detail proposals voiced at the first such event and focused on issues of air security to be ensured by both sides, since both US and Russian aircraft are currently operating in Syria’s airspace.
The date for the next consultation is to be arranged later.

Why Is Money Still Flowing to ISIS?

Videos of Islamic State fighters driving brand-name S.U.V.s and pickup trucks in Syria, Iraq and Libya are graphic proof that efforts to squeeze the group financially have not done nearly enough. Now that the Obama administration’s program to train and equip anti-Islamic State fighters has ended in failure, there is even more reason to double down on efforts to choke off the group’s ability to raise funds and buy supplies.
For the Islamic State, which is seeking to establish a caliphate across Iraq and Syria, money is a potential Achilles’ heel. Unlike nations like Iran, which have been under international financial sanctions and controls, the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — is not a state. It lacks traditional economic relationships, it generates the vast majority of its revenue from within the territory it controls, and the sources of its revenues are not fully understood — all of which present a difficult challenge, American officials say.
The Treasury Department is leading an international effort to disrupt trade routes, cut access to the international financial system, and impose sanctions on Islamic State leaders and anyone who assists them. Last week, the State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information that leads to a significant disruption of sales of oil or antiquities benefiting the group.
Administration officials say they are making progress in starving the Islamic State of revenue and the ability to spend that money in world markets for military equipment and other supplies like oil production gear. But the sight of brand-name vehicles in the group’s convoys is a sure sign that something is awry, especially when Toyota, the manufacturer, says it has a policy of not selling to purchasers who might modify vehicles for terrorist activities.
Nearly a year ago, David Cohen, then the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told Congress the Islamic state “does not have the money to meet its costs.” Yet the terrorists now control a huge swath of territory in Syria and Iraq with millions of people and have drawn thousands of recruits from Europe and elsewhere. They are waging war against an American-led coalition and other forces. That takes hundreds of millions of dollars. They also must provide services to mollify civilians under their control, pay fighters’ salaries estimated at $500 a month or more and equip an army.
American officials say the Islamic State generates most of its revenue within the territory it rules, beyond the reach of the usual counterterrorism tools. Extorting civilians and businesses has brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, they say. Despite American efforts to cut off the group’s oil revenues, the most recent estimate is that ISIS earns about $40 million a month selling oil from fields in Syria and Iraq, with refined products going to local buyers, while crude oil is sold to middlemen and smugglers with customers in Iraq and Syria, including the Syrian regime, and beyond.
The Islamic State is also looting banks; demanding ransom from kidnap victims; engaging in human trafficking; selling off plundered antiquities; and leaning on private donors, mainly in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
When it began bombing the Islamic State last year, the United States had some success disrupting the group’s oil revenues by targeting pipelines and refineries. Since then, producers have moved from using mobile refineries to using homegrown operations that are harder to target, officials told The Times. Concerns about leaving local citizens without crucial refining facilities and with the daunting job of rebuilding them later may be tempering the American approach, some experts say.
Last November Mr. Cohen stressed the importance of working with Turkey and Kurdish leaders to clamp down on cross-border smuggling, but that hasn’t been effective enough. Some American officials now say they are less confident that tightening Turkey’s border will disrupt the Islamic State’s profits from black-market oil sales.
The top priority now seems to be the blocking of the Islamic State’s use of banks and financial exchanges in Iraq, so the group won’t be able to buy weapons and other supplies. Treasury officials say they have succeeded in cutting off dozens of banks in Islamic State territory from the Iraqi and international financial systems. As the Islamic State moves to establish affiliates in other countries it may become easier to uncover those networks, because they will have to communicate over long distances and possibly assist one another financially, officials say.
If the group’s brutal rampage is to be halted, more effective efforts to undermine its finances are essential. Military force can be only one element of a multipronged strategy.

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Poll: Hillary Clinton still leads Democratic race

By Anthony Salvanto, Jennifer De Pinto, Sarah Dutton and Fred Backus

The Democratic race

Just days before the first Democratic candidate debate, Hillary Clinton is ahead of Bernie Sanders by 19 points in the Democratic race for the nomination nationally. Forty-six percent would vote for her. Her lead is similar to last month, but has narrowed since August. Potential candidate Vice President Joe Biden comes in third, with 16 percent, while the other candidates trail far behind.

2016 Democratic nomination for president

If Biden decides not to enter the race, Clinton's lead over Sanders widens. She would have 56 percent support, compared to 32 percent for Sanders.
Clinton is still viewed as the candidate with the best chance of winning a general election. Nearly six in 10 Democratic primary voters see her as the most electable, far ahead of the other candidates in the field.
Clinton gets strong support from women (51 percent) and older voters (48 percent). Clinton's lead is narrower with men (39 percent), and she and Sanders run about even among Democratic primary voters under age 50.
Just under half of Democratic primary voters nationwide say they would enthusiastically support Clinton if she became the party's nominee. Twenty-seven percent would support her with some reservations and another 11 percent would only back her because she is the nominee. Fourteen percent would not support her in a general election.
Democratic voters currently backing Clinton are especially likely to be enthusiastic about her. Those not supporting Clinton are less fervent- only about a quarter would enthusiastically support her if she became the party's nominee.

Views of the Democratic candidates

Clinton, Sanders and Biden are viewed more positively than negatively among Democratic primary voters. While fewer see Sanders favorably, over a third has yet to form an opinion of him.
Among voters nationwide, opinions of Biden and Sanders are divided, but more than four in 10 voters - 44 percent - are undecided about Sanders or don't know enough to have an opinion of him.
But among that broader electorate, 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Clinton, an increase from August and the highest since the CBS News Poll began asking about her in 1992.

Democrats: The candidates on the issues

On handling of two key issues -- the economy and an international crisis -- more Democratic primary voters say they are very confident in Clinton's abilities than in her nearest competitors'. 47 percent are very confident in Biden to handle an international crisis, while Sanders lags on this issue.
Still, majorities of Democratic voters are at least somewhat confident in both Sanders and Biden.
Clinton, Sanders, and Biden get similar marks from Democratic voters on the issue of regulating banks and financial institutions.

Democrats: Candidate Qualities

Democratic primary voters choose honesty and trustworthiness (26 percent) and having a candidate who cares about people like themselves (26 percent) as the top qualities in deciding their vote for their party's nominee. These are closely followed by strong leadership (21 percent), the right experience (20 percent) and electability (4 percent).
Clinton supporters value experience and empathy as their top candidate qualities. Among Democratic voters not backing Clinton, 34 percent say honesty is the quality that is most important to them, while just eight percent say experience is important.
Generally, the Democratic candidates, or potential candidates, get positive marks on these qualities and characteristics. Majorities of Democratic voters see Clinton, Sanders and Biden as honest and trustworthy, although Biden does the best on this quality, with 85 percent.
Clinton and Biden run about even on leadership and experience (more than 8 in 10 say they each possess these traits). Experience is less of a strength for Sanders -- 52 percent of Democratic voters thinks he has the right experience to be a good president.
All three are viewed by large majorities of Democratic primary voters as caring about the needs and problems of people like themselves.
On all of these measures, about one in 10 Democratic voters do not have an opinion of Sanders.

2016 Candidate Qualities Among All Voters

The poll also tested how potential nominees fared among all voters, not just primary voters, across a number of those same qualities.
Among all voters, Donald Trump (65 percent) gets good marks on strong leadership, just as he does among Republicans. Majorities also see Vice President Biden (55 percent), Clinton (53 percent), and Carson (51 percent) as strong leaders. Fiorina and Sanders rate lower on this, but are also more unknown.
CBS News
Joe Biden ranks highest on being honest and trustworthy, with 61 percent, though Ben Carson is close behind with 58 percent. Hillary Clinton continues to struggle in this area among all voters, with 35 percent, as does Donald Trump, with 33 percent.
Both Biden (67 percent) and Ben Carson (63 percent) do well on caring about voters' need problems. This is also one of Bernie Sanders' strongest attributes of those tested among all voters. More say Trump does not care about people like them than say he does.
More see Biden (60 percent) as having the right experience to be a good president, compared to the other candidates asked about. Clinton is second with 51 percent), and the political newcomers are much further behind, along with Sanders.

The Clinton email controversy

As questions continue about Clinton's email practices as Secretary of State, 71 percent of registered voters nationwide do not think it was appropriate for Clinton to use a personal email address and server for work-related matters while Secretary of State, up from 64 percent in March. Majorities of Republicans and independents say her actions were not appropriate, while Democrats are more divided.
In addition, about six in 10 voters are dissatisfied with her explanation of the matter, while far fewer - a third - are satisfied.
But how will this affect Clinton's campaign for president? Voters are split: 50 percent say the email issue will be important in their vote for president, while almost as many - 48 percent say it won't be. Most Democrats say the email matter won't be important, while most Republicans say it will be. Independents are divided.

Views on the Role of Government and the Economy: A Partisan Divide

Democrats and Republicans have distinctly different views on the role of government in America. Three in four Republicans say the government is doing too much, while two in three Democrats see it as doing too little.
Overall, a majority of Americans think the government is now doing too much that is better left to businesses and individuals; just 39 percent think the government should do more to solve national problems.
On economic fairness, just over half the public - 54 percent - think that only a few people at the top have a chance to get ahead in today's economy; 42 percent think everyone has a fair chance. But Republicans are more likely to say that everyone has a chance to get ahead; most Democrats think only those at the top do.

Cross-over Appeal?

With the election for president more than a year away, about a third of Democrats and Republicans say they would consider voting for a candidate from the other party. Most, however, are inclined to stick with their own party. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans will not consider voting for a Democrat, and the same percentage of Democrats also say they wouldn't consider voting for a Republican.

This poll was conducted by telephone October 4-8, 2015 among a random sample of 1,251 adults nationwide, including 1,038 registered voters. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS by SSRS of Media, PA. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.
The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.
Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers.
The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.
The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.
The margin of error for the sample of 343 Democratic primary voters is 6 percentage points.

CBS News poll 2016 Democratic presidential campaign

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President Obama Considers Executive Action on Gun Background Checks


Anyone who sells 50 to 100 guns in a year would be treated like a gun dealer.

Among the options being reviewed is a proposal to redefine who is considered a licensed gun dealer, which would also change requirements for conducting gun background checks. According toNBC News, under the proposed executive action anyone who sells 50 to 100 guns every year would be considered “in the business” of selling guns and have to adhere to laws that apply to gun dealers such as conducting background checks on buyers.
The action would reportedly not apply to people who occasionally sell, exchange, or purchase guns for their personal collection or anyone who sells off all or parts of their personal firearm collection.
The proposal was first drafted in 2013 in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the Washington Post, but it has resurfaced as the President and his team consider ways to take action against gun violence. Timing on this proposal is still up in the air, according to an administration official. The news of its consideration comes shortly after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton proposed her own executive action that would address the federal background check system if Congress does not.
Gun control has been one of the areas where Obama has had some of the least success, despite a bevy of national tragedies that have kept the issue at the forefront of national conversations. Since the shooting at Umpqua Community College that left nine dead and several others injured, Obama has been visibly angry over the fact that mass killings have become “routine” in America.
“Our thoughts and prayers are not enough. It’s not enough,” Obama said hours after the shooting. “It does not capture the heartache and grief and anger that we should feel. And it does nothing to prevent this carnage from being inflicted someplace else in America — next week, or a couple of months from now.”

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ANALYSIS: The biggest act of terror in Turkey's history

Murat Yetkin

The attack has further escalated political tension in the country only 20 days before the parliamentary re-election. Polls show that a similar outcome to the June 7 election is likely, which could force a coalition government.

Two bombs that exploded among people gathering in front of the Ankara train station on Oct. 10 in the morning claimed the lives of at least 95 people, wounding 246 others, many of them heavily. 

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has stated that the government suspected two suicide bombers committed the attack. The victims were about to attend a rally in Ankaraorganized by civil society groups in order to call for peace against the resumed clashes between the outlawedKurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the security forces, as Turkey heads for a key snap election on Nov. 1.

That was the biggest act of terror in Turkey’s history, killing more than any former ones.

PM Davutoğlu announced a national mourning for three days, not only for those killed in the latest attack but also for police and military officers who have died in the recent wave of violence. 

It is not yet clear who or which organization committed the violent attack, but Davutoğlu said it “could be the PKK or the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant [ISIL].” However, it is clear that the blast has created a wave of shock in all layers of Turkish society. The country has been living in an atmosphere of clashes with ups and downs for decades but it has never been the stage of such an awful attack directly targeting civilians using their democratic rights.

Calling themselves “The Labor Platform,” the associations that led the rally - including labor unions, civil servant unions, the bar association, the chambers for medical doctors, engineers, architects and others - applied to theAnkara Governor’s Office weeks ago to get permission for the rally route. 
Answering a question after the attack on whether he was thinking of resigning due to the lack of security measures, Turkish Interior Minister Selami Altınok said he did not think there was any problem with the measures, so he would keep his post.

Cancelling his election programs during the mourning period, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP), said he was ready to give all support necessary to the government to end terrorism. “Turkey doesn’t deserve this,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that government’s excessive “involvement in Middle Eastern affairs” was having terrible side effects.

Davutoğlu said he wanted to consult over the recent situation with Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli, because they could draw a “bold line between themselves and acts of terror.” However, he said he would not be consulting with Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-chairman of the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who slammed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, PM Davutoğlu, and the government over the attack.

The attack has further escalated the political tension in Turkey only 20 days before a re-election of key importance. Polls show that the chances of a similar outcome to the June 7 elections, which could force a coalition government, are higher than chances of Davutoğlu’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) regaining power in parliament. That would also mean that President Erdoğan’s hopes of changing the country’s regime into a presidential one would diminish further.

But right now Turkey must focus on finding those responsible for the biggest act of terror in its history.

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#TurkeyAttack - Turkey bomb blasts: government blamed as thousands take to streets in Ankara

Thousands of Turkish citizens gathered in central Ankara a day after twin bombings targeted a peace rally in the city, killing over a hundred civilians in an attack that demonstrators and mourners blamed squarely on the government of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Witnesses and victims’ families, as well as opposition parties, ascribed direct responsibility to the government for allegedly failing to provide any security measures ahead of the peace rally, saying police officers who arrived at the scene after the bombing fired teargas at grieving families who rushed there to inquire about their loved ones.
They also blamed Erdoğan’s government for allegedly sowing chaos ahead of next month’s parliamentary polls, either to delay the elections and retain power for his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), or to increase his chances of securing a broader majority in the elections to maintain security.
“We are grieving, we are saddened, but we are also furious,” the Kurdish opposition leader, Selahattin Demirtas, told a rally in Sihhiye Square in central Ankara. “We will struggle, fight, and win back the democracy.”
Demonstrators shouted slogans condemning the Turkish president, chanting “chief and murderer Erdoğan” and “death to fascism”.
Brief scuffles earlier broke out as police used teargas to prevent people from laying red carnations at the site of the attack, the deadliest terrorist strike on Turkish soil in recent history. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic party (HDP) said said some members of its delegation sustained injuries.
Organisers searched the demonstration’s attendees and patted them down to avoid a repeat of the previous day’s attack as tension and anger rose at the previous day’s bloody events.
According to the HDP, the number of people killed in the bombing stands at 128, all but eight of whom have been identified and their names published by the HDP’s crisis desk.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, and the government has denied any part in it. The prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, cited the political upheaval in both Turkey and Syria and said the attack could have been carried out by Islamic State, Kurdish militants or radical leftist groups.
Witnesses and victims’ families on Sunday said the police had not provided any protective measures for the peace rally, which had called for an end to recent bouts of violence that had gripped Turkey and was mostly attended by leftist, Kurdish and Alevi activists.
Outside Numune Hospital in central Ankara, families of victims treated at the hospital reiterated their blame for the government and its lax security, and said they were attacked with tear gas as they rushed to the scene for news of their loved ones.
One man who said he learned of his nephew’s death in the bombing on Facebook said he was tear-gassed after arriving at the site of the bombing by police.
“These are our children and they would not let us help them,” he said. “I saw arms, legs and heads severed from their bodies.”
Security analysts have pointed out the similarities to a suicide bomb attack in the Turkish border town of Suruç that killed 33 Kurdish and Turkish activists in July, which the Turkish government blamed on Isis.
The government announced it had appointed two chief civil inspectors and two chief police inspectors to investigate the Ankara attack. According to the pro-government daily Yeni Safak, one of the suicide bombers might have been identified as a man aged between 25 and 30, but no further details have yet been made public.
The two explosions occurred in an interval of a few seconds near the central train station on Saturday morning as thousands started to gather for a peace march, which was organised by several leftwing groups including labour unions and the HDP to call for an end to the escalating violence between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s party (PKK).
Selahattin Demirtas, the co-chair of the HDP, held the government responsible for the attack and said his party, seen as one of the main targets, would not seek revenge but would ask for justice.
The government accused the Kurdish politician of exploiting the pain of others for electoral gain. On Sunday, at the memorial rally, Demirtas harshly rebuffed these claims.
“Who are you to keep threatening us? We will not allow you to kill us like this, day after day. We are the ones who are dying. We are the police, the soldiers, we are the Kurds and the Turks who are dying. Your children are not the ones that are killed,” he said. “That is why we are not the ones who should be held responsible, but you are.”
The bomb attack in Ankara came three months after the breakdown of a mutual ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK. Hundreds of people have been killed in the escalating violence since then.
Hours after the Ankara bombing, the PKK announced an expected unilateral ceasefire, in order to avoid acts that could obstruct a “fair and just election” on 1 November. The snap vote was called after the government failed to form a coalition following national elections in June.
The Turkish government opted to snub the offer of calm. On Saturday night, Turkish fighter jets launched airstrikes against PKK positions in Turkey and northern Iraq. A statement by the general chief of staff said 49 militants were killed and shelters and gun positions were destroyed. Security operations were also reported from the predominantly Kurdish province of Diyarbakir.

Video - Protesters throw petrol bombs at water cannons, clash with police after Ankara blasts

Afghanistan and Iraq: Lessons for the Imperial


The photographs in the New York Times told contrasting stories last week. One showed two Taliban soldiers in civilian clothes and sandals, with their rifles, standing in front of a captured U.N. vehicle. The Taliban forces had taken the northern provincial capital of Kunduz. The other photograph showed Afghan army soldiers fully equipped with modern gear, weapons, and vehicles.
Guess who is winning? An estimated 30,000 Taliban soldiers with no air force, navy, or heavy weapons have been holding down 10 times more Afghan army and police and over 100,000 U.S. soldiers with the world's most modern weaponry -- for eight years.
ISIS forces from Syria have taken over large areas of northern and western Iraq, including its second largest city, Mosul, and the battered city of Fallujah. ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria are estimated to number no more than 35,000. Like the Taliban, ISIS fighters, who vary in their military training, primarily have light weaponry. That is when they are not taking control of the fleeing, much larger, Iraqi army's armored vehicles and ammunition from the United States.
Against vastly greater numbers of Iraqi soldiers, backed by U.S. weapons, U.S. planes bombing daily, 24/7 aerial surveillance, and U.S. military advisors at the ground level, so far ISIS is still holding most of its territory and is still dominant in large parts of Syria.
The American people are entitled to know how all this military might and the trillions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, since 2003 and 2001 respectively, can produce such negative fallouts.
Certainly these failures have little to do with observing the restraints of international law. Presidents Bush and Obama have sent military power anywhere and everywhere, regardless of national boundaries and the resulting immense civilian casualties, in those tragic, blown-apart countries.
The current perception of the U.S. in these countries is that of invaders on a rampage. Recruiting motivated fighters, including a seemingly endless supply of suicide bombers, is easier when the invaders come from western countries that for over a century have been known for attacking, carving up boundaries for artificial states, intervening, overthrowing, propping up domestic dictators, and generally siding with oligarchic or colonizing interests that brutalize the mass of the people.
It hasn't helped for these invasions to be supported by an alien culture rooted in the Christian crusades against Islam centuries ago, whose jingoism in the U.S. continues among some evangelical groups today.
But of course more contemporary situations are, first and foremost, the wonton destruction and violent chaos that comes with such invasions. With the absence of any functioning central governments and the dominance of tribal societies, the sheer complexity of the invaders trying to figure out the intricate "politics" between and within tribes and clans turns into an immense, ongoing trap for the western military forces.
When the U.S. started taking sides with the Shiites against the Sunnis in Iraq, or between different clans and tribes in Afghanistan, U.S. soldiers, not knowing the language or customs, were left with handing out $100 bills to build alliances. Our government air-shipped and distributed crates of this money. With the local economies at a standstill, public facilities collapsed, fear gripped families from violent streets and roads, and all havoc broke lose in the struggle for safety and survival.
Afghan soldiers, who are paid only $120 a month, will do almost anything to supplement their income, including selling weapons. At higher levels, bribes, payoffs, extortions create an underground economic system. The combination of lack of understanding, the systemic bribes, and the ensuing corruption has produced a climate of chaos.
Then there is the reckless slaughter of civilians -- wedding parties, schools, clinics, peasant boys collecting fire-wood on a hillside -- from supposedly pinpoint, accurate airplanes, helicopter gunships, drones or missiles. Hatred of the Americans spreads as people lose their loved ones.
Our "blowback" policies are fueling the expansion of al-Qaeda offshoots and new violent groups in over 20 countries. On 9/11, the "threat" was coming from a corner of one country -- northeastern Afghanistan. The Bush/Cheney prevaricator frenzy led to local bounty hunters taking innocent captives, falsely labeled as "terrorists," who were sent to the prisons in Guantanamo, Cuba. These actions have damaged our country's reputation all over the world.
All this could have been avoided had we heeded the advice of retired, high-ranking military, national security, and diplomatic officials not to invade Iraq and their advice not to overreact in Afghanistan. But the supine mass media, and an overall cowardly Congress let the lies, deceptions, and cover-ups by the Bush regime go unchallenged and, as Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) put it, Bush/Cheney "lied us into the Iraq War."
It isn't as if the Taliban and ISIS are winning the "hearts and minds" of the local people. On the contrary, while promising law and order, they treat local populations quite brutally, with few exceptions. But the locals have long been treated brutally by the police, army, and militias jockeying for the spoils of conflict. Unfortunately, there is still no semblance of ground-level security.
All empires fail and eventually devour themselves. The U.S. empire is no different. Look at the harm to and drain on our soldiers, our domestic economy, the costly, boomeranging, endless wars overseas and what empire building has done to spread anxieties and lower the expectation level of the American people for their public budgets and public services.
Not repeatedly doing what has failed is the first step toward correction. How much better and cheaper it would be if years ago we became a humanitarian power -- well-received by the deprived billions in these anguished lands.
What changes are needed to get out of these quagmires and leave a semblance of recovery behind? Press those gaggles of presidential candidates, who war-monger with impunity or who are dodging this grave matter, for answers. Make them listen to you.

The key to solving the puzzle of Afghanistan is Pakistan

By Fareed Zakaria

Recent setbacks in Afghanistan — from the fall of Kunduz to the errant U.S. bombing of a hospital in that city — again raise a question. Why, after 14 years of American military efforts, is Afghanistan still so fragile? The country has a democratically elected government widely viewed as legitimate. Poll after poll suggests that the Taliban are unpopular. The Afghan army fights fiercely and loyally. And yet, the Taliban always come back.
The answer to this puzzle can be found in a profile of the Taliban’s new leader, Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. It turns out that Mansour lives part time in Quetta, the New York Times reports, “in an enclave where he and some other Taliban leaders . . . have built homes.” His predecessor, Mohammad Omar, we now know, died a while ago in Karachi. And of course, we remember that Osama bin Laden lived for many years in a compound inAbbottabad. All three of these cities are in Pakistan.
We cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan without recognizing that the insurgency against that government is shaped, aided and armed from across the border by one of the world’s most powerful armies. Periodically, someone inside or outside the U.S. government points this out. Yet no one knows quite what to do, so it is swept under the carpet and policy stays the same. But this is not an incidental fact. It is fundamental, and unless it is confronted, the Taliban will never be defeated. It is an old adage that no counterinsurgency has ever succeeded when the rebels have had a haven. In this case, the rebels have a nuclear-armed sponsor.
Pakistan has mastered the art of pretending to help the United States while actually supporting its most deadly foes. Take the many efforts that U.S. officials have recently made to start talks with the Taliban. It turns out that we were talking to ghosts. Omar has been dead for two years, while Pakistani officials have been facilitating “contacts” and “talks” with him. This is part of a pattern. Pakistani officials, from former president Pervez Musharraf down, categorically denied that bin Laden or Omar was living in Pakistan — despite the fact that former Afghan president Hamid Karzai repeatedly pointed this out publicly. “I do not believe Omar has ever been to Pakistan,” Musharraf said in 2007.
The Pakistani army has been described as the “godfather” of the Taliban. That might understate its influence. Pakistan was the base for the U.S.-supported mujahideen as they battled the Soviet Union in the 1980s. After the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan in 1989, the United States withdrew almost as quickly, and Pakistan entered that strategic void. It pushed forward the Taliban, a group of young Pashtun jihadis schooled in radical Islam at Pakistani madrasas. (“Talib” means student.) Now history is repeating itself. As the United States draws down its forces, Pakistan again seeks to expand its influence through its long-standing proxy.
Why does Pakistan support the Taliban? Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, whose book “Magnificent Delusions” is an essential guide, says that “Pakistan has always worried that the natural order of things would be for Afghanistan to come under the sway of India, the giant of the subcontinent. The Pakistani army came to believe that it could only gain leverage in Afghanistan through religious zealots. Afghanistan’s secular groups and ethnic nationalists are all suspicious of Pakistan, so the only path in is through those who see a common, religious ideology.” This strategy is not new, Haqqani points out, noting that funding for such groups began in the mid-1970s, before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
What should the United States do? First, says Haqqani, it needs to see reality for what it is: “When you are lied to and you don’t respond, you are encouraging more lies.” He argues that Washington has to get much tougher with the Pakistani military and make clear that its double-dealing must stop. To do this would be good for Afghanistan and stability in that part of the world, but it would also be good for Pakistan.
Pakistan is a time bomb. It ranks 43rd in the world in terms of its economy, according to the World Bank, but has the sixth-largest armed forces. It has the fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, and the most opaque. It maintains close ties with some of the world’s most brutal terrorists. By some estimates, its military consumes 26 percent of all tax receipts, while the country has 5.5 million children who don’t attend school . As long as this military and its mind-set are unchecked and unreformed, the United States will face a strategic collapse as it withdraws its forces from the region.