Saturday, November 28, 2015

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Saudis failed to investigate air strikes on Yemen civilians - rights group

 An international rights group accused a Saudi-led coalition of failing to investigate air strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen, and said Washington should look into violations of the laws of war in which it played a role.
A coalition of Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia and allied to the United States, has been attacking Iran-allied Houthis who had seized much of Yemen in a series of military operations since September last year.
The United States is a major supplier of weapons to Saudi Arabia and U.S. officials say intelligence-sharing with Riyadh about potential targets in Yemen has been boosted since March.
Human Rights Watch, in a report received on Friday, said it had interviewed victims, witnesses and medical staff in the provinces of Ibb, Amran, Hajja, Hodaida, Taizz, and the capital, Sanaa, where air strikes had hit homes, markets, a factory, and a civilian prison.
In all of these cases, Human Rights Watch said it either found no evident military target or found that the attack failed to distinguish civilians from military objectives.
The spokesman for the Gulf Arab coalition said the organisation's report lacked expertise.
"The person who wrote the report and the witnesses quoted did not demonstrate that the attacks in question were carried out by coalition aircraft," said Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asiri.
"The coalition welcomes any Yemeni government efforts to use experts to ensure strikes are directed precisely at military targets," he added.
Human Right Watch said it had compiled the names of 309 people - 199 men, 43 women, and 67 children - killed in the attacks, all believed to be civilians.
The New York-based organisation said Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests by the group for information about the 10 air strikes.
The deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Joe Stork, said the coalition was unwilling to conduct "even a single investigation of numerous potentially unlawful air strikes".
"While the coalition may have sophisticated weaponry and U.S. support, its commitment to the laws of war is rudimentary at best," Stork said in the statement.
The United Nations says about 5,700 people have been killed in the fighting, including more then 2,600 civilians. The United Nations said that about two-thirds of the civilian casualties were killed by air strikes.
U.S. officials said in April that Washington was expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom's air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen.;postID=755365551363499417

Video Report - Saudi-led Airstrikes Kill Hundreds in Yemen


The absence of diplomatic relations has not prevented unofficial contact between Israeli and Saudi representatives while Saudi Arabia claims to be one of the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world.
Saudi Arabia claims to be one of the leaders of the Arab and Muslim world prevent it from recognizing the Israel’s right to exist within its current borders, while Tel-Aviv in its turn rejects the plan for Middle East Regulation (MER) proposed by Riyadh involving a reversion to the pre-1967 status quo. As a result of various domestic and international factors neither side will change their diametrically opposite positions and maintain official contacts.
However, the absence of diplomatic relations does not prevent unofficial contact between Israeli and Saudi representatives. Recently there have been frequent media reports on meetings between representatives of the two states and there have even been claims that the Saudis are ready to provide Israel with an air corridor and air bases for rescue helicopters, tanker aircraft and drones (unmanned aircraft systems – UAS) in case Israel decides to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. Some of these reports have been denied by officials but others have nevertheless been confirmed.
"In particular, according to information of a Jerusalem Post correspondent citing diplomatic sources of both countries, since the beginning of 2014 there have been as many as five secret meetings between the Saudis and Israelis, in India, Italy and the Czech Republic. Reports appeared in the Arab press that senior members of the Israeli security forces, including the head of Mossad, secretly visited Riyadh and held discussions there with their Saudi equivalents. Apparently there were even negotiations between the then director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, with senior officials of the Israeli secret services in Geneva."
On June 5, 2015 Director-General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry Dore Gold met Saudi met with General Anwar Majed Eshki at a conference in Washington, when the latter presented his strategic MER plan. Key highlights of this document are devoted to establishing cooperation between the Arab countries and Israel and the need for joint efforts to isolate the Iranian regime.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia commissioned prince and media magnate Al-Waleed bin Talal to start a dialogue with the Israeli intellectual community with the aim of reestablishing contact with the neighbouring country. Prince Talal called on all inhabitants of the Middle East, which were torn apart by war, to end their hatred of the Jewish people. He also declared that his visit to Jerusalem signifies the beginning of ‘peace and brotherliness’ between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Arab media reported that Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi confirmed that his country is ready to export ‘black gold’ to any place in the world, including Israel. Saudi Minister pointed out that the majority of the Arab world does not see any obstacles to trade relations. In August 2014 the head of the Saudi Foreign Ministry Prince Saud Al Faisal declared at the world assembly of Islamic scholars in Jeddah: “We must reject planting hatred towards Israel and we should normalize relations with the Jewish state.” Dore Gold, mentioned above, told the news agency Bloomberg: “Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries shared over the years. But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead and Riyadh can become a strategic partner of the Jewish state”.
It should be noted that this mobilization of contacts between representatives of Saudi Arabia and Israel has been taking place on the eve of and after the signing of the agreement between international mediators and Iran on the latter’s nuclear program. Tel-Aviv called the agreement ‘a historical mistake’ and Riyadh perceived it as a direct threat to its national interests. It is no coincidence that the Saudi King and some of his direct counterparts in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) decided not to participate in the summit of this regional organization on May 14, 2015 in Camp David (in the US).
"Soon after, on June 18, 2015 at the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Saudi Defence Minister and son of Saudi King Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud. The King himself is expected to come to Russia on an official visit before the end of this year. In other words, Riyadh made it clear to Washington that the deal with Iran is forcing the Saudi leadership to look for new allies. Time will tell whether these steps are more to do with a genuine desire of the Saudis to diversify their foreign relations, or they are simply a lever to put pressure on the US administration."
The US had to react quickly to the aggressive declarations and actions of its strategic allies and regional partners. Washington assured both Riyadh and Tel-Aviv that the IAEA and American special services will keep a tight watch on Teheran implementing all the conditions of the agreement signed in Vienna and that the sanctions on Iran will only be lifted gradually. The GCC countries were promised to receive supplies of new modern weaponry in increasing amounts and on preferential terms. In the very near future the question of creating a common anti-missile system for the GCC as a whole will be resolved. This system will cover the Arab Peninsula with a ‘reliable shield’ from a possible attack by Teheran. The US also supported Saudi Arabia in its bombing of Shiite defense forces in Yemen. In order to support the air operation of the coalition led by Riyadh the US fueled the Saudi fighter aircraft and provided intelligence and equipment. It was even reported that Israel, at the request of Washington, also provided its intelligence data on Yemen to the Saudis.
In order to calm the Israelis following the deal with Iran, Washington promised to increase its annual financial aid to Israel for the entire 10-year duration of the implementation of the ‘Vienna Pact’ – by around one and a half billion US dollars. The US additionally accepted responsibility to finance the further development of the Iron Dome anti-missile system and to increase Israel’s missile supplies, which were depleted following last year military operation in Gaza. The Israeli air force will also get a squadron of the latest F-35 fighter-bombers on favourable terms. At the same time, in the near future joint exercises will be held with the air forces of Israel, the US and several European countries for the first time in six years. These exercises will include perfecting ‘missile attacks and bombing raids on targets located in far-off countries’.
This way, the agreement between the international mediators and Iran over its nuclear program apparently encouraged sworn enemies to look for compromises and common ground to counter the threat they both face from Iran. Neither the Israeli nor Saudi leadership believe that the Vienna agreement will help to restrict further Iranian expansion in the region. Tel-Aviv is worried that Teheran will nevertheless end up possessing nuclear weapons and will break Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East. Moreover, Israelis expect Iran to start actively aiding anti-Israeli half-military half-political groupings (Hamas, Hezbollah and others). Riyadh, in its turn, is sure that with the lifting of restrictive sanctions the Islamic Republic of Iran will make significant progress in scientific, technical, trade, economic, and other areas, and will improve its combat readiness and the fighting capacity of its armed forces.
The apparent Israeli-Saudi alliance, even though hidden from the masses for now, matches the interests of the US in the Middle East and Western Asia. Washington hopes that this will weaken anti-Israeli feelings in the Arab and Muslim world, create a reliable counterweight in the region to a possible strengthening of Iran, and isolate to the extent possible radical Sunni and Shiite groups. The US, it would seem, is happy to see several centers of power at once (Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the Gulf monarchies and Iran) jostling or in competition with each other but dependent on Washington, with Riyadh together with Tel-Aviv assigned the role of regional gendarme. The Saudis’ counterinsurgency operations in Bahrain and Yemen and the support for opposition fighters in Syria confirm this thesis; reported.


Around 1,000 people have held a protest demonstration in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province to call for the release of Shia political activists.

The demonstrators gathered at Imam Hussein Mosque in the eastern town of Awamiyah in the Qatif region following Friday prayers and demanded the immediate release of several Shia activists who are on death row, including Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr, the nephew of prominent Shia cleric Ayatollah Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, who was 17 when he was arrested in 2012.
“They gathered to demand their freedom,” an unnamed resident was quoted by AFP as saying.
Ali Mohammad was arrested during an anti-government protest in Qatif and was later convicted of criminal activities and handed down a death penalty by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court in May 2015.
His uncle, Ayatollah Nimr, was also arrested in the Qatif in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr has denied the accusations.
On October 25, the Saudi Supreme Court and an appellate court approved the execution of Ayatollah Nimr and authorized the Saudi Interior Ministry to carry out the sentence. The warrant still needs to be approved by the Saudi king.
The UK-based rights group Amnesty International has called Nimr’s trial “deeply flawed” and the death sentence “appalling,” saying the verdict has to be quashed. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has also called on Riyadh to halt Nimr’s execution.
Peaceful demonstrations erupted in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in February 2011, with protesters demanding reforms, freedom of expression, the release of political prisoners, and an end to widespread discrimination against the people of the oil-rich region. Several people have been killed and many others injured or arrested during the rallies. International rights bodies have slammed Saudi Arabia for its grim human rights record.

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US ’troubled’ by arrest of Cumhuriyet editors, calls on Turkey to uphold freedoms

The United States has said it is "troubled" by the pre-trial arrest of top editors of Turkey's critical newspaperCumhuriyet, calling on Turkish authorities to uphold freedoms to ensure stronger Turkish democracy.
In a relatively more forceful statement, Mark Toner, State Department Deputy Spokesperson, said late on Friday that the investigation, criminal charges, and arrest of the editors raise "serious concerns" about the Turkish government's commitment to the fundamental principle of media freedom.
A court in İstanbul arrested Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dündar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gül over a report that documented Turkish intelligence's involvement in the transfer of arms into Syria. Turkey initially claimed that the trucks intercepted by prosecutors were carrying humanitarian goods. Later, the Turkish government edited its narrative and claimed that arms were heading to Turkmens in Syria's Bayırbucak. Turkmen fighters are ethnic Turkic and strongly backed by Ankara.
Toner said Thursday's events are only the latest in a series of judicial and law enforcement actions taken under "questionable circumstances" against Turkish media outlets critical of the government.
With the arrest of Dündar and Gül, the total number of Turkish journalists incarcerated behind bars has risen to 32. Since the government regained its parliamentary majority in Nov. 1 elections, at least six journalists were arrested. In the past one month, the Turkish authorities shut down 14 TV channels, seized two newspapers, two TV channels and a radio channel.
"We call on Turkish authorities to ensure that all individuals and organizations – including but not limited to the media – are free to voice a full range of opinions and criticism, in accordance with Turkey's constitutional guarantees of media freedom and freedom of expression," Toner said, adding that this will ultimately strengthen Turkey's democracy.

Turkish weapons ‘heading to end in ISIS hands’: RT speaks to Cumhuriyet journalists

Journalists from one of few remaining independent newspapers in Turkey, Cumhuriyet, whose editors were recently, arrested, have spoken to RT from their Istanbul office, sharing what they know about Turkey's alleged connections with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
An RT crew visited the newspaper's office in Istanbul, and were allowed to talk with its reporters, while hundreds of people gathered outside the media office to protest against the authorities' decision to arrest Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Can Dundar, and senior editor of the paper in Ankara, Erdem Gul.
In addition to the news of the Cumhuriyet journalists' arrests, it was announced on Friday that another Turkish media worker, Daily Hurriyet columnist and former editor-in-chief Ertugrul Ozkok faces up to five years and four months in prison for "insulting" the Turkish president in an opinion piece published in September. The indictment claimed Ozkok's writing following the tragic death of a Syrian refugee boy, whose body was washed ashore a Turkish beach, exceeded the limits of"acceptable criticism," Daily Hurriyet said.
With a Turkish prosecutor asking a court to imprison the Cumhuriyet journalists pending trial on charges of treason, espionage and terrorist propaganda, the mood in the office was tense and many refused to talk to RT on camera, but still wanted to be heard.
In May, the outlet which is considered to be the opponent of the government, published photos of weapons it said were then transferred to Syria by Turkey's intelligence agency.
Those who sent the convoy from Turkey knew that the weapons were"heading to end [up] in ISIS hands," one of the Cumhuriyet bosses told RT's Ilya Petrenko. "There was that flag that belongs to ISIS... [it could be seen] very clearly [from] Turkish border line," the journalist said.
Turkish officials made contradictory statements after the paper blew the whistle, first saying that the arms "were going to the Free Syrian Army," then denying the delivery altogether, and then saying the "aid was destined for the Turkmen."

"When you ask [the government] who [the Turkmen] are, they tell you that those are our guys," another Cumhuriyet journalist told RT. But when the reporter "personally talked" to the fighters supported by her government in Syria, she said she didn't see how they could be different from the terrorists, saying "they were all brothers."
"[There is] no difference between ISIS and the other guys. I think there is a problem with the labels here, because all the world is focused on ISIS, but there are other jihadist groups there, and they have links with Al-Nusra or ISIS, [while] Turkey says 'we are helping that groups – not ISIS'," the Turkish journalist added.
"ISIS is smuggling oil to Turkey and through Turkey... it's kind of common knowledge by now. But the big question is [whether] it's possible that they are doing it without the government's knowledge or some authority's knowledge," one of Cumhuriyet's employees told RT.

Video Report - Journalists arrested in "a trial seen as Erdoğan's vendetta to a report on arms smuggling"

Video Report - Syria's War Battlefield Update for 27th November, 2015

What the West can learn from Francois Hollande's visit to Russia

The French leader’s visit to Moscow is important because it embodies the kind of diplomacy that is required to restore harmony to the West’s relationship with Russia: a pragmatic exchange between equals based on interests not ideology.

France's President Francois Hollande, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin enter a hall for their news conference following the talks in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, November 26, 2015. Photo: AP
In New York in September, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for the creation of “a genuinely broad international coalition against terrorism” including Russia and the West. At the time, Western leaders mainly dismissed this as grandstanding. On Nov. 26 in Moscow, however, French President François Hollande appeared to agree: “Our enemy is Daesh, Islamic State, it has territory, an army and resources, so we must create this large coalition to hit these terrorists.”
What are we to make of this? Will a “grand alliance” against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) centered on a Franco-Russian core help the West bring Russia in from the cold and, in these tense days following Turkey’s provocative destruction of a Russian bomber, help check any downward spiral in Russia-NATO relations?
In meetings with Hollande in Washington several days earlier, U.S. President Barack Obama, nominally leader of the Western alliance, tried to be as polite as he could. The United States, he said, would “wait and see” before committing to a tactical alliance with Russia over ISIS.
In reality, a rapprochement between Russia and the United States is exceedingly distant. The degree of hostility in Washington and among Europe’s “new Atlanticists (to borrow a term from Chatham House expert Richard Sakwa) to cooperating with Russia should not be underestimated.
Writing earlier this month, for example, former NATO General-Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated his call for Western governments to maintain a united front against what he calls “Russian aggression” in Ukraine, including by “helping Ukraine improve its defense capabilities” and arming Kiev. To Rasmussen, what are needed are policies capable of “compelling Russia to engage constructively with the West."

Also read: "Obstacles for Russia-West anti-ISIS cooperation after Paris attacks"

Just as Hollande was appearing in Washington, former high-ranking Pentagon official Evelyn Farkas published a stinging indictment of Russia as a “fundamental” challenge to “the international system, to democracy, and to free market capitalism.”
“The problem we in the West have,” she went on, “apart from ISIL [Islamic State], is Russia.”
The only problem with that argument is that as far as ISIS concerned Putin is largely right. Russia’s interests and the West’s converge (and in a way Turkey’s plainly do not); Moscow’s strategy for defeating or at least containing ISIS makes better sense (since it is being executed in support of professional land forces, namely the Syrian Army); and only its air campaign in Syria is actually consistent with international law, flying over Syrian sovereign territory at the invitation of its UN-recognized government.
Mutual misunderstandings
Russia was quick to seize the opportunity for common cause that ISIS’s Nov. 13 attacks in Paris created: It sent an Alsatian puppy to replace the police dog killed when French commandos crushed ISIS’s terrorist nest in the northern Paris suburb of St Denis.
But when Western commentators claim, as they have done over the past week, that Russia might somehow be persuaded to “join” the West’s anti-ISIS coalition, they would do well to remember Putin’s heavy emphasis in his speech in New York on the traditional Westphalian vision of the sovereign equality of states. What Russia wants — and has done, consistently, since first Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev consented to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 — is to be treated by the West as an equal.
Indeed, it deserves emphasizing that Western diplomacy with Russia will continue to fail — and instead will continue to antagonize and provoke — until it learns that Russia wants a cooperative relationship with the West, but not at the price of accepting the West’s definition of its interests.
In this sense, Hollande’s visit is important not because it seals a rapprochement between Russia and the West (which it alone cannot effect) or because it consolidates the coordination of French and Russian airstrikes over Syria (which it seems it will do) but because it embodies the kind of diplomacy that is required to restore harmony to the West’s relationship with Russia: a pragmatic exchange between equals based on interests not ideology.
This is the kind of old-fashioned diplomacy that Western governments must decide consistently and ingenuously to pursue over the long term if they are to replace confrontation with cooperation with Moscow, and not just in regard to Syria in the immediate impulse to review existing Western policy there that has followed the Paris attacks, but also in Ukraine.
Much ink has been spilt on the “Eurasianist” ideology that supposedly drives Putin’s “imperialistic” foreign policy. But the problem is that Western policies have pushed Russia closer to China and other members of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — the world’s leading developing economies, none of which has followed the West in applying sanctions). It also confirmed for many Russians the difference in values that separate what they see as a hypocritical and individualistic West from a more conservative and communally-minded Russia.
Yet in Putin’s heart of hearts, as in many Russians’, it remains true that Russia’s president and its people see their country as fundamentally European in history, culture and geography — and Hollande’s visit will be particularly appreciated for this reason. (The Russian imperial court and upper classes after all spoke and thought in French for centuries; when in 1812 Napoleon invaded, many struggled to understand how they could be so cruelly betrayed by their adoptive mother.)
The challenge is that the Europe to which Russia seeks to return no longer exists. Russia wants to be recognized as a Great Power — and, specifically, a European Great Power — on a continent whose peoples have come to take the denial of power politics as a defining element of their modern identity, expressed in that fundamentally liberal, greater peace project that is the European Union.
Having rediscovered the cultural and spiritual inheritance denied to them by Communism, Russians feel bewildered when on visits to London, Paris and Berlin the Christian values and traditions they consider quintessentially “European” seem to be suppressed in the name of a post-modern political correctness that they cannot identify with.
What’s in it for France?
As the home of the deeply anti-clerical 1789-95 revolution, France is more secular and post-Christian than almost any other European country. But as far as regards Hollande’s appearance in the Kremlin, France has traditionally harbored deep reservations about that vision of a “liberal,” rules-based world order under benign U.S. hegemony more or less taken for granted in the Anglosphere.

Recommended: "Terror attack in Paris: A war without rules and limits"

While sharing a commitment to democracy and human rights (which as the droits de l’homme were, after all, first proclaimed in French), France has never renounced the right to protect its national embodiment of either through the hard-nosed pursuit and use of power. The French invented raison d’état too.
Neither a “post-national” state the way Germany is nor reflexively Atlanticist in the manner of the United Kingdom, France — more than any other country in Europe — is capable of reasoning in terms of that pre-1914 vision of European order as a concert of national interests. 
When the present confrontation with the West erupted over Ukraine last year, Russiaturned first to Germany as its natural mediator. German Chancellor Angela Merkel —more liberal and more Atlanticist than any of her predecessors — famously opined that Putin was living “in another world.”
Yet it’s one, it seems, in which France can still navigate. On Ukraine, France has until now played a supporting role to Germany, but for a sympathetic hearing of Russia’s case, Hollande’s pilgrimage to the Kremlin suggests Moscow has also been right to try to engage Paris as much as possible. Indeed, Hollande earlier this year declared his willingness in principle to consider lifting Ukraine-related sanctions against Moscow.
Of course, Hollande’s “shuttle diplomacy” would scarcely have been conceivable without the attacks in Paris a fortnight ago and it remains far too early to imagine Franco-Russian (let alone Russo-Western) cooperation extending further than ISIS and Syria for the foreseeable future.
Yet there is a real sense in which it hard not to see, not just Ukraine, but also the Eurozone crisis as the ultimate backdrop to Hollande’s visit. Though between the White House on Nov. 24 and the Kremlin on Nov. 26, Hollande made time to welcome Merkel to a flower-laying ceremony at the Place de la République — not far from where most of ISIS’s victims were slain at the Bataclan concert house — the elephant in the room is Germany.
For since the outbreak of the euro crisis in 2009, France has chafed at Germany’s self-appointed right to the leadership of Europe and the mainly, in the eyes of traditionally statist Paris, wrong-headed and deflationary policies Berlin has imposed in its effort to remake the continent in its image.
France may not have Germany’s deep pockets but it remains deeply aware that it retains what post-1945 Germany has never been allowed to acquire: highly capable expeditionary forces, an independent nuclear arsenal and a permanent seat in the UN’s Security Council at the world’s highest negotiating table — the late 20th-century trappings, that is, of a traditional European “great power.”

Also read: "If Russia, the West refuse to cooperate in Syria now, it will be insanity"

By reaching out independently and demonstratively to Russia, France is not only retracing a well-trodden route to a historical ally in balancing an over-mighty Germany (suggesting that power politics have not so much been eliminated as suppressed). Rather, it is announcing that, in the troubled, early 21st-century Europe dominated by Berlin-made solutions to crises over Ukraine, the euro and refugees, France is back. (In a possible sign of this, Italy’s Matteo Renzi signed on to France’s “grand coalition” on Nov. 26.)
All the same, coordinating the bombing of terrorists in the Syrian desert is one thing. Only time will tell what Hollande’s visit will mean not only for the future of Russia’s relations with the West but also for the configuration of power and influence in Europe as a whole.

Turkey’s True Goals in Syria are Much More Than Just Oil and Money

Turkey playing dirty in Syria is no secret. The true goal Ankara is pursuing in Syria is becoming a regional power and the country that rules the Sunni Muslim world, journalist Riccardo Peliliccetti wrote for his article in Il Giornale.

Over the course of his 20 years of ruling Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has Islamized the country and launched a policy of expansionism. It is obvious that Erdogan’s goal is to turn northern Syria – between Aleppo and Latakia – into the 82nd Turkish province, the article read, and now he is playing the card of Turkmen living in the region.

Erdogan insists on military intervention in Syria which would help him neutralize the so-called "Shiite axis" comprising Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

"This may be the very beginning of a conflict between Turkey and Iran. Tehran is responsible for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s strategy. Assad as well as Hezbollah is very important to Iran. This is the Shiite axis. Russia came to Syria to support Assad, and then Turkey shot down a Russian jet. It may lead to a war between Turkey and Iran," political analyst Edward Luttwack was quoted as saying in the article.

For the last four years, Turkey has been making efforts to topple Assad, including financing terrorists and the guerilla war against Damascus. Turkish airports are filled with foreign troops ready to be deployed to Syria. Turkey has attacked the Kurds who fight against the Islamic State (ISIL) terrorist group instead of fighting its militants, the author wrote. What is more, Turkey buys smuggled oil from ISIL for $15-20 a barrel, and then re-sells it at a double the price.

Nevertheless, the strong Shiite axis and particularly the Russian offensive in Syria have shattered Erdogan’s dreams of an empire and kept Assad in power.

After the Russian Su-24 bomber was downed, Erdogan said that Turkey did it to protect itself and its "brothers" in Syria.

He meant Turkmen, of course, but also terrorist groups sponsored by Ankara, many of which have pledged allegiance to ISIL, the author pointed out.

At the Vienna conference in late-October Russia asked the Sunni axis – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar – to make up a list of moderate opposition figures for talks with Assad. As a result, Ankara removed their protégés from the list of terrorists to let them participate in the talks.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin will not allow the breakdown of Syria, an ally to Russia, the article read.

Now, it looks like Turkey is looking for a reason to start a war, using NATO for its own interests, according to the article.

The author cited words by German General Harald Kujat who warned of such a scenario a year ago.
"Turkey wants to drag NATO into this war since its goal is to topple Assad. ISIL and the Kurds are not that important. An ally which acts this way should not be respected in the alliance," Kujat said.

Luttwak confirmed the assumption, saying: "Turkey betrayed NATO when it refused to cooperate and bought oil from ISIL. Ankara made ISIL powerful. While the US is sending weapons to Kurds who fight ISIL Turkey is bombing them. For NATO, having Turkey as an ally is worse than having it as an enemy," he concluded.

Read more:

Erdogan's 'Silent Backers': Who Egged Turkish Leader to Attack Su-24?

Was the downing of the Russian Su-24 Erdogan's "oil revenge" for Turkey's losses from the destruction of oil smugglers' truck fleet bombed by the Russian Air Force in Syria? Or maybe it is just the tip of a very big iceberg, F. William Engdahl asks.

American-German researcher, historian and strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl notes that back in August 2015, he wrote about the Harvard-educated 35-year-old son of Turkish President Erdogan, Bilal Erdogan, who was involved "up to his eyeballs" in illicit oil smuggling from Syria and Iraq.
"That illegal oil finances the major activities of ISIS [ISIL] in Iraq and Syria, a point of which Russia's Putin gently reminded US President Obama and others at the recent Antalya, Turkey G-20 meeting. Fourteen months of alleged US bombings of ISIS targets never once went after the oil chain from Mosul and other ISIS occupied sites through Turkey onto tankers owned by Bilal Erdogan's tanker companies," Engdahl narrates in his recent article for New Eastern Outlook.

Citing vice-president of the Turkish Republican Peoples' Party Gursel Tekin, the researcher points to the fact that Bilal Erdogan's maritime companies own "special wharfs in Beirut and Ceyhan ports" transferring ISIL's stolen oil in Japanese oil tankers.

Bilal's BMZ Ltd maritime company is doing oil trade for ISIL, he notes, adding that the illicit oil smuggling has become Erdogan's family business with close relatives holding shares in the company. Furthermore, in order to boost the business the Erdogans took illicit loans from Turkish banks, Engdahl continues, quoting Tekin. 
In this light Erdogan's motivation for downing the Russian Su-24 is crystal clear, given the fact the Russian Air Force had repeatedly bombed oil smugglers' truck fleet into ash.

But did the Turkish leader act as a "lone assassin"?

"The fact that the tyrannical Erdogan and his Air Force and intelligence services were directly implicated in the shoot-down of the Russian SU-34 is not in dispute. The more relevant question, however, is whether Erdogan and his government acted as a 'lone assassin' so to speak. Here several murky questions present themselves," Engdahl underscores.

The truth of the matter is that a number of countries, surrounding Syria, have been more or less involved in illegal oil smuggling.

Engdahl calls attention to reports saying that Israel's IDF was spotted messing with ISIL in the Golan Heights region. Engdahl also refers to Israeli media outlets narrating that since June 2014, Israel imported about 75 percent of its oil needs from Iraq. It still remains unclear whether the oil was transported from the Kurdish area of Iraq. Still, some independent sources claim that Iraqi oil is being smuggled by ISIL to Turkey and then redistributed to Israel via Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan.

Engdahl cites Chris Dalby, an analyst with, who characterized ISIL as "a largely independent financial machine" due to its numerous oil fields in Iraq and Syria.

Still, whatever profits Erdogan is purportedly receiving from oil smuggling it is highly unlikely that the Turkish President would sacrifice Russo-Turkish relations for some fishy business.

​"My masculine intuition tells me that Recep Erdogan would never risk such a dangerous bold and illegal action against Russia on whom Turkey depends for 50% of her natural gas imports and a huge part of her tourism dollar earnings merely because the family ISIS oil business was being bombed away by Russian jets," the researcher underscores.

Engdahl expresses his confidence that there were "clearly serious silent backers" encouraging Erdogan to launch an attack on the Russian Su-24 plane.
Indeed, despite Ankara's hardly convincing explanation of the treacherous attack, almost all NATO leaders have sided with Turkey, justifying its "act of self-defense."  

Interestingly enough, US warmongering neocons have repeatedly called for "shooting down" Russian planes.

​"What role did the emotionally unstable US Defense Secretary and neo-conservative Russophobe Ash Carter have, if any, in the downing of the Su-24 and later the Russian rescue helicopter? What role did Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 'Fighting Joe' Dunford play, if any? What role did the British secret services play, if any? What role did the Israeli IDF and Mossad play, if any, in the Turkish deed?" Engdahl asks.

Yet, the incident has left more questions than answers. However, "what is hidden will be revealed," as a proverb says.

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Turkey’s F-16 that downed Russian bomber was in Syrian airspace for 40 seconds — commander

The Russian Aerospace Forces commander says the video footage of Russian bomber's crash was shot from the territory controlled by terrorists from North Caucasus and former Soviet republics.
Turkey’s F-16 fighter that shot down the Russian Aerospace Forces’ Sukhoi Su-24M bomber was in Syria’s airspace for 40 seconds and went 2 kilometers inside its territory, while the Russian bomber did not violate the Turkish state border, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Viktor Bondarev, said Friday.
"In line with air defense means objective control materials, the Turkish plane was in Syria’s airspace for 40 seconds and flew two kilometers inside its territory, whereas the Russian bomber did not violate the state border of Turkey," Bondarev said.
He said the crew of the second Su-24 plane confirmed the launch of the missile from the F-16. After the combat employment at the mentioned target and left turn to 130-degree course "it observed on the left side of it flame and a tail of white smoke, which it reported to the flight operations director," he said.
 According to the commander, Turkey’s F-16 fighter stopped maneuvering in its duty zone and started heading to the missile launch point nearly two minutes before the maximum proximity of the Russian Su-24M bomber to the Syrian-Turkish border.
"It’s necessary to note that the fighter stopped maneuvering in the duty zone and started promptly heading to the set-forward launch point 1 minute 40 seconds prior to the maximum proximity of the Su-24M plane to the Syrian-Turkish border," Bondarev told journalists.
He said the actions of the Turkish plane after the missile launch above Syrian territory - wind-down turn with altitude loss and withdrawal under the lower limit of the air defense means target acquisition area - were treacherous and planned beforehand.
Bondarev said the Turkish fighters that attacked the Su-24M were waiting for the Russian bomber in the air. Besides, according to Russian military data, the bomber was in the Turkish Air Force’s radar stations coverage area for over 30 minutes.
According to him, during the analysis of the video recording of the air situation display, obtained from the Syrian Air Force and air defense command post, "a mark of the air target flying at a speed of 810 kmph from the direction of Turkey toward the state border on a 190-degree course was discovered."
"After the Turkish fighter’s approach with the Su-24M jet at a distance equal to the missile firing range (5-7 kilometers), which testifies to the F-16 plane being above the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, the fighter made an aggressive maneuver to the right in descent and got lost from the screen of the air situation display," he said.
The commander also said that terrorists were informed about the plotted provocation against the Russian plane in advance.
"The fact that groups of terrorists reached the site of the pilot’s landing so quickly and that the video of the incident was posted on the internet in a span of 90 minutes proves that the terrorists had been informed in advance about the plotted provocation so that it could be video recorded and posted in social networks," he said.
Bondarev also noted that the video footage of Russian bomber's crash was shot from the territory controlled by terrorists from North Caucasus and former Soviet republics. He also noted that the person shooting the video knew the time and place of the attack in advance. 
"The shot angle makes it possible to define the exact place. It is located in a territory held by radical terrorist groups from the North Caucasus or the former Soviet republics. The cameraman knew the exact time and place from it would be possible to make exclusive shots," Bondarev said.
According to him, the Turkish media’s readiness to cover the incident was amazingly surprising. The general recalled that the Russian jet was hit at 10:24 on November 25. A private Turkish TV company posted the video 90 minutes later.
"The prompt appearance of terrorist gangs at the landing place and the video’s publication in the Internet 90 minutes after the incident proves that the terrorists had been informed of the forthcoming provocation in advance with an aim to shoot everything on a video and place the materials in social networks," Bondarev stressed.
The facts, the general went on to say, are pointing to a pre-planned action designed to destroy the Russian plane and later cover the incident in social networks.
The Turkish Air Force’s F-16 fighter on November 24 shot down a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M bomber that Ankara claims violated the country’s airspace on the border with Syria. The Su-24M crew ejected but one of the two pilots was killed by fire from the ground. The second pilot was rescued as a result of a 12-hour operation. During evacuation of the Su-24M crew, a Mi-8 helicopter was lost and a contract marine was killed.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Su-24M was above Syrian territory and "there was no violation of Turkey’s airspace." It said the Turkish Air Force fighter violated Syria’s airspace.
To protect Russian aircraft in Syria, state-of-the-art S-400 air defense systems, whose killing range reaches 400 kilometers, were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase. Besides, the Russian missile cruiser Moskva equipped with the Fort air defense system (sea version of S-300) approached the Syrian coast.
Russia’s Defense Ministry warned that Russian strike aircraft will from now on be escorted by fighters during sorties, while all potentially dangerous targets will be destroyed.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Turkey’s attack will have "serious consequences" for Russian-Turkish relations.
Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The air group initially comprised over 50 aircraft and helicopters, including Sukhoi Su-24M, Su-25SM and state-of-the-art Su-34 aircraft. They were redeployed to the Khmeimim airbase in the province of Latakia.
On October 7, four missile ships of the Russian Navy’s Caspian Flotilla fired 26 Kalibr cruise missiles (NATO codename Sizzler) at militants’ facilities in Syria. On October 8, the Syrian army passed to a large-scale offensive.
In mid-November, Russia increased the number of aircraft taking part in the operation in Syria to 69 and involved strategic bombers in strikes at militants.