Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 3, 2015

Turkey and ISIS: separating fact from fiction

Filed under: Jihadists,Syria,Turkey — louisproyect @ 4:11 pm

Showing his characteristic indifference to the facts, John Wight wrote on RT.com (where else?) that Columbia University professor David L. Phillips had revealed that the Turkish government had been “involved in helping ISIS with recruitment, training, and has provided it with intelligence and safe havens and sanctuary.”

However, if you go to the report, which was published on Huffington Post under the title “Research Paper: ISIS-Turkey List”, you need to read the fine print that indicates it was only a list of allegations, something Wight apparently did not do. For example, I can compile a list of allegations that global warming is a hoax but that does not mean that I have proved that it is. Right?

It is just as possible, however, that he read it and decided to sweep it under the rug in order to turn the research paper (more of an aggregation of links)  into some kind of smoking gun proving that Turkey and ISIS were in cahoots. The article, published with the imprimatur of Columbia University’s “Institute for the Study of Human Rights”, clearly says that it is providing a list of allegations. Let me repeat that with emphasis. It is a list of allegations. Also, at the very end of the report it says: Author’s Note: Information presented in this paper is offered without bias or endorsement. (Emphasis in the original.)

One can certainly understand why RT.com would allow a semi-literate propagandist like John Wight to turn “allegations” into proof. As most people in touch with reality understand, Russia Today is a kind of Fox News for the “anti-imperialist” left, providing red meat with the kind of mad abandon found in a typical Bill O’Reilly show.

As a prime example, look at this screenshot from an 11/25/2015 RT.com article titled “Ankara’s oil business with ISIS”. And in particular note that it states “an alleged ISIS leader”. By stipulating “alleged”, one gathers that this item might have easily qualified for Professor Phillips’s list.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.25.52 AM

However, the allegation has about as much substance as a Donald Trump speech on Mexican immigrants. It turns out that the bearded guys were owners of a kebab restaurant in Turkey and had nothing to do with ISIS. I guess having a beard makes you eligible for racial profiling in the Russian media.

If there is one thing that Russia and Turkey have in common, it is a shady news media. Many of Phillips’s citations come from ODA TV, an ultranationalist outlet that is about as reliable as Russia Today. For example, as one of the “allegations” there is this video clip “allegedly showing ISIS militants riding a bus in Istanbul.” Other than their long hair and black shirts (but beardless?), there’s not much else to go by. For all practical purposes, they could have been Metallica fans.

When there is a link to a more reputable outlet such as Taraf, a liberal newspaper that has partnered with Wikileaks, it is once again an allegation rather than hard evidence. In one instance, the Taraf article cites Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat, “a founder of the AKP”, who said that Turkey backs ISIS. But you need to dig a bit deeper to understand the nature of the allegation. The article is dated October 12, 2015, just two days after a terrorist bomb killed 100 people at a rally organized by the leftist/Kurdish HDP. While Firat was indeed a founder of the AKP, he had broken with the party and joined the HDP. As such it is not surprising that he would charge the AKP with being an accomplice to ISIS terror.

Of course there is nothing wrong with being a partisan of the Kurdish struggle. Indeed, David L. Phillips is one himself. His book “The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East” was published this year with none other than Bernard Kouchner providing a forward.

The choice of Kouchner makes perfect sense in terms of Phillips’s self-description as a “U.S. official” involved with Kurdish affairs. To give you a clear idea of his orientation, this speaks volumes:

Toppling Saddam was a clear priority for President George W. Bush after 9/11. Ambassador William J. Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), encouraged me to get involved in Iraq’s political transition. Qubad Talabani, the PUK representative in Washington, arranged my visit to Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2002. I flew to Qamishli, a Kurdish city in Northeast Syria. In a cinder-block building on the Tigris River, a Syrian official served me tea and checked my authorization to transit from Syria to Iraq. Sure enough, my name and passport number were handwritten in his registry. Qubad provided a four-digit code: 3462. The official checked to see if the code matched his registry and issued a letter of passage.

Well, one can certainly understand why John Wight might lean on the authority of David L. Phillips. In an age when the “anti-imperialist” left is channeling Christopher Hitchens’s ghost, such an affinity makes perfect sense.


  1. Putin said he had hard evidence Turkey is ISIS’s accomplice. But so far the best they’ve been able to come up with is an article on RT.com by John Wight? The Russians are scraping the bottom of the barrel and through their bombing onslaught and perpetual lying have managed to elicit sympathy even for the wretched Turkish regime.

    Comment by Stepan Petrichenko (@pyotr_kropotkin) — December 3, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

  2. Middle Eastern revolutionaries have been pointng out the connections between ISIS and Turkey for years. We’ve been reporting what they tell us in greenleft.org.au However, I would expect it to be denied by the fascist-apologist pro-Erdogan Western left.

    Comment by tony — December 3, 2015 @ 9:56 pm

  3. Tony, your case would be strengthened if your Greenleft articles were not based so much on Kurdish sources. When you insist on depicting them as pure as the driven snow and the FSA as warlords and bandits, you come across as a stooge. I too support the Kurdish struggle and particularly the HDP in Turkey. All my relatives see that as a sign of hope. But when you attach yourself to them in the way that Yoshie has to Iran or Roger Annis to the separatists, you don’t serve their cause well at all. In fact it suggests to people that you have a cultish mindset. Really quite sad.

    Meanwhile, you have not said anything that negates what I have written unless you agree with ODA TV that the long-haired guys dressed in black on an Istanbul bus were ipso facto ISIS.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 3, 2015 @ 10:10 pm

  4. Greenleft articles are not to be believed. Louis needs Michael Weiss, Pulse and the New York Times to let him know what to think.

    Comment by Georges — December 4, 2015 @ 2:21 am

  5. Georges, haven’t heard from you in a while. You must be having multiple orgasms over Russian jets bombing the shit out of the anti-Assad rebels. Did you get what John Wight said about barrel bombs being okay in terms of firebombing Dresden? You people remind me of that scene in “Trainspotting” when the character jumps into a toilet to retrieve a bag of heroin. When you look in a mirror, you must see something close to that toilet.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 4, 2015 @ 2:40 am

  6. In fact Louis you had heard from gorgeous GEORGES quite recently, namely, he provided this gem of a 3rd comment in your late November article about the grotesquely ironic Bromance that the Pepe Escobars of the world had with the Jihadists in Falujah during 2004:

    “Foreigners coming to the aid of a nation invaded by Western imperialism is not the same thing as foreigners, supported by imperialism and the Arab gasoline monarchies, invading an Arab nation. Different circumstances produce different analyses. It’s not that hard to figure out.”

    Foreigner involvement was overstated in the battle of Fallujah anyway. They were likely only around 10% while 90% were Saddam’s old Republican Guard officer corp, the remnants of which provide the primary leadership of ISIS today.

    So much for Saddam being the most secular of all the mideast fiefdoms. If you thought Jack Barnes’ “turn” toward industry was bad one ought to read up on Saddam’s “turn” toward Islam — thanks in no small part to the devastating sanctions wrought upon the Iraqi masses via Clinton, the very same sanctions that were advocated by half (which became a big split in) the Peace Movement during Operation Desert Shield.

    Talk about the origins of ISIS for crissakes. Is it any wonder that the Sunni officer corp survivors of 30 years of virtual constant warfare — the 80’s fighting Iran at the behest of the US, then the 90’s fighting the US & their sanctions (sanctions being war by other means) and then after Y2K fighting the US some more — that they’ve become crazed head choppers?

    Ever hear Spalding Gray’s account of how the Khemer Rouge got started? Obviously Wight hasn’t.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — December 4, 2015 @ 3:50 am

  7. Season’s greetings to you too ,Lou.

    Comment by Georges — December 4, 2015 @ 4:58 am

  8. If you genuinely support the HDP you should pay attention to what they were saying over a year ago. https://hdpenglish.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/statement-by-hdp-on-recent-developments-in-rojava/

    Comment by Tony — December 4, 2015 @ 5:07 am

  9. You need to break from your campist mentality. Just because Russia says something doesn’t make it automatically untrue. The fact is that the genuine left in the region was saying this a long time before the Russians, for their own reasons (something to do with a plane), started doing so

    Comment by Tony — December 4, 2015 @ 5:14 am

  10. Louis Proyect continues to act as the US State Department’s point man and official Trotskyist press spokesman. He has now lined up with Erdogan in working towards a Sunni state in Syria and Iraq, ala the House of Saud and its merry band of Wahhabists.

    Keep on keeping on Louis. You have yet to reach the bottom of that ocean of sewage you’re descending in.

    Comment by John Wight — December 4, 2015 @ 10:52 am

  11. Wight’s obviously very confused about Trotskyism if he thinks Proyect is an official spokesman for it!

    Comment by prianikoff — December 4, 2015 @ 11:06 am

  12. On the more substantive issue:-
    One of the alleged outlets for ISIS oil, the Bab al-Hawa Border Crossing, near to Reyhanli is controlled by Ahrar al Sham.
    This is an Islamist militia, whose entire leadership was wiped out in a bomb attack in 2014.
    Almost every informed commentator believes it is now controlled by Turkey.
    It’s entirely plausible that such a group is acting as an intermediary between ISIS and black-marketeers in Turkey.

    Perhaps Mr Proyect would care to explain away the arrest of the editor of Cumhuriyet for publishing photos of Turkish munitions being sent to the armed groups it supports in Syria?
    Cumhuriyet is not some shady National Enquirer type rag, but the oldest up-market paper in Turkey, founded in 1924.

    While you’re at it, please explain how Alparslan Çelik, a Turkish citizen and member of the MHP who has been filmed giving the Grey Wolf salute, was leading the Turkmen militia which killed the Russian pilot who bailed out over Syria.

    It’s very strange how no one in the US-led coalition thought about bombing ISIS controlled oil wells until the Russians started highlighting this issue. Yet they were amongst the first targets of RAF bombers after Cameron secured his vote in Parliament.
    I Wonder Why?

    I also wonder why Turkey is suddenly moving troops from the Greek and Bulgarian border towards Northern Syria.
    Is it to block the trade in black-market oil, weapons and personnel with ISIS?
    Or to stop the YPG and their Arab allies from gaining control of the territory between Afrin and Kobane?

    Control of this area is absolutely crucial and the US and Russia have conflicting positions on how to achieve it.
    The US is backing Turkey, Russia is now opposing it and increasingly supporting the YPG.

    Comment by prianikoff — December 4, 2015 @ 11:11 am

  13. Perhaps Mr Proyect would care to explain away the arrest of the editor of Cumhuriyet for publishing photos of Turkish munitions being sent to the armed groups it supports in Syria?

    I actually support armed groups other than ISIS in Syria getting weapons from any source possible, including Satan”s grandmother. In terms of the Turkmen and the downed Russian jet, I would refer you to Michael Karadjis’s article that I crossposted here.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 4, 2015 @ 12:43 pm

  14. I pay attention to what the HDP says but I am under no obligation to agree with everything. For example, the Kurds in Syria have been involved in ethnic cleansing. If the HDP denies it, I say fuck them–at least on that specific matter. My main interest in the HDP is as an agent of change in Turkey, not as a commentator on what is happening in Syria. For that I am more inclined to read Charles Lister, Hassan Hassan, et al.

    Amnesty International report on Kurdish ethnic cleansing of Arabs:

    Click to access AI.WeHadNowhereElseToGo.PDF

    Comment by louisproyect — December 4, 2015 @ 12:53 pm

  15. ” You have yet to reach the bottom of that ocean of sewage you’re descending in.”

    At least I don’t characterize a list of allegations as proof. I’d rather swim in shit than write it.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 4, 2015 @ 1:10 pm

  16. Considering the fact that 90% of the Russian and Assad bombs are dropped on civilian neighborhoods with zero ISIS presence, on markets and hospitals, on non-ISIS opponents of Assad, and NOT on ISIS, it seems clear that the biggest providers of ‘safe haven’ to ISIS are actually Assad’s forces, now backed by Russian bombing.

    Comment by Reza — December 4, 2015 @ 4:18 pm

  17. I’m afraid I don’t find Michael Karadjis’s Byzantine rationalisations for the myriad of sectarian groups operating under the tattered banner of the “FSA” at all convincing.
    He played a similar role during the Yugoslav Wars, when he was an attorney for the Kosovo Liberation Army. Events didn’t bear out his analysis then and they won’t now.

    There are Syrian Turkmens in “Jaish al-Thuwar”, which is a non-sectarian militia aligned with the YPG, but Celik is not one of them. He’s not a Syrian, or a refugee from Syria.
    He’s Turkish and his group mopped up after a Turkish air force operation.
    The idea that they didn’t coordinate their activities is ludicrous.
    ISIS controls the oil fields and what’s happening is almost certainly an an “arms for oil” trade, in which elements in the Turkish state are complicit.

    The YPG has shown it can organise the areas it controls on a non sectarian and democratic basis.
    Where there are diehard ISIS supporters still living amongst the population, this is obviously difficult.
    But they’ve provided a reasonable answer to the allegations in the Amnesty report and shown why it was a distortion – which is more than you can do for Ahrar al Sham.

    As for Charles Lister; his shopping list of “70,000 moderate rebels” in Syria just joins up the dots that the Tories in Britain couldn’t, when they pushed through their vote in Parliament this week.
    Most British MP’s are just too servile or stupid to ask really awkward questions.
    Inasmuch as he’s even accurate, Lister just proves how disunited the Syrian opposition actually is.

    As for your “anyone but ISIS” approach to arming the rebels.
    This can’t possibly work in real life.
    Al Nusra certainly is not supportable on the grounds that they’re “fighting fascism” & neither are Ahrar al Sham, or Jaish al Islam, both of which are controlled by Turkey and Saudi Arabia respectively. Quite different from the PYD, which is evolving much as I predicted.

    Comment by prianikoff — December 4, 2015 @ 5:35 pm

  18. But they’ve provided a reasonable answer to the allegations in the Amnesty report and shown why it was a distortion – which is more than you can do for Ahrar al Sham.

    I find this uncritical devotion to the Kurds despicable. Here is the filthy Global Research website citing PYD co-leader Saleh Muslim on why Assad could not possibly have used Sarin gas.


    As I have said on numerous occasions, it does not serve the Kurdish cause to spin doctor their abuses.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 4, 2015 @ 5:53 pm

  19. here is an SA take on Tariq: http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article4305

    Comment by jp — December 4, 2015 @ 7:57 pm

  20. ‘At least I don’t characterize a list of allegations as proof. I’d rather swim in shit than write it.’

    While Phillips may describe them as allegations, for obvious reasons, the variety of sources he draws from cannot be so easily dismissed as you attempt.

    The Washington Post, NYT, Jordanian intelligence, etc.

    Comment by John Wight — December 4, 2015 @ 11:40 pm

  21. Wight, you are such a double-talking douchebag. If I was writing an article that made it sound like a smoking gun was found, I would have taken the trouble to read the fucking Phillips article carefully before making an ass out of myself. Oh, but don’t worry. RT.com, you, Pepe Escobar, Mike Whitney, ad nauseam are living in such an ideological bubble that none of this matters. You would even raise Goebbels’s eyebrows.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 4, 2015 @ 11:45 pm

  22. Btw just on this: ‘Did you get what John Wight said about barrel bombs being okay in terms of firebombing Dresden?’

    I absolutely did not say that barrel bombs were ‘okay’. I described them as a ‘war crime’. The firebombing of Dresden by the British and Americans was also a war crime. But war crimes are a part of war Louis. In fact war itself is a crime, which is why Marxists focus on eradicating the causes of war – i.e. capitalism/imperialism.

    Just as the war crime in the shape of the firebombing of Dresden did not invalidate the Allied cause in crushing Nazism, Assad’s barrel bombs do not invalidate Syria’s struggle against an invasion of the country by 1000s of religious fanatics.

    The point is that in advocating Assad’s toppling by force you are advocating the country being turned into a mass grave of Syrian minorities. You are the best propagandist Daesh could have in the West with your obscene equivalence between them and a secular non sectarian govt and army. It relates to the equivalence you previously drew between Churchill and Hitler ala WWII. Thankfully, the millions of workers across the world who fought to crush European fascism in the 1940s took a different view.

    As I recently wrote, the only moderates fighting in Syria are the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, made up of Sunnis, Alawites, Druze, and Christians fighting for their homes, their people, and their country.

    Comment by John Wight — December 4, 2015 @ 11:51 pm

  23. Wight, only someone with a warped sense of good and evil would compare dropping barrel bombs on a defenseless working class neighborhood in Douma with the firebombing of a city in a country which had the most powerful military in Europe and anti-aircraft batteries second to none. The only good that can come out of your shameless casuistry is that people sitting on the fence around these issues will be so appalled by your analogy between Nazi Germany and the Syrian opposition that they will finally wake up. Indeed, it has been people like you and Pepe Escobar who calls the opposition “mongrels” as if he were a Likud politician that probably woke Bhaskar Sunkara up to the point that he finally published an article in Jacobin that does not reek of crypto-Stalinist bad faith.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 5, 2015 @ 12:06 am

  24. #18 “uncritical devotion to the Kurds”

    People who talk about “the Kurds” blur the distinctions between the pro-Ocalan groups like the PYD & PKK and Barzani’s KDP.
    There is a clear political difference in their politics, strategy and tactics, which is why I don’t use such terminology.
    Neither am I “devoted” to the PYD, or even uncritical of them.

    However, they actually have to operate in Syria – unlike you, or Karadij who works at a University in Western Australia, Daher who lives and works in Switzerland, or Achcar, who works at a University in London.
    I’d rather listen to what they say.

    In fact, the PYD’s approach to the Syrian regime has proven to be entirely sensible and correct.
    When the Syrian protests were militarised they refused to get drawn in.

    Rather than joining in a united front with al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the CIA controlled militias run by MOC in Jordan, the Turkish or Saudi controlled groups, they defended their own areas.
    To do otherwise would have been suicidal.

    But they are NOT pro-regime.
    In NE Syria, the Syrian government is threatening to withdraw all of its teachers from schools and stop paying salaries in schools that teach Kurdish as a first language in early years education.
    Using your approach, the PYD should declare war on the Syrian state, even though it doesn’t have the resources to pay the salaries themselves. It should fight a war on ISIS and the Baath Party at the same time and refuse international alliances with both the USA and Russia.

    They wouldn’t last 5 minutes!
    Using their approach, they’ve survived, control key areas along the border with Turkey and have developed allies in the Arab, Turkmen & Syriac populations.
    Linking together the Kurdish autonomy movement with the Turkish working class can lead to victory.

    Comment by prianikoff — December 5, 2015 @ 9:11 am

  25. Agree with what Prianikoff says

    Comment by tony — December 5, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

  26. But they are NOT pro-regime.

    What a load of crap. As I pointed out already, it was reprehensible of Salih Muslim to state that Assad could not have used Sarin gas in East Ghouta especially given that the Kurdish people were killed by Saddam’s chemical warfare. This idiot is also on record as saying that “A solution without Assad means the death of 2 million Alawites.” It really creeps me out that Tony will find a way to spin doctor this. I wouldn’t expect anything different from Prianikoff who has the same crappy politics as Kevin Ovenden.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 5, 2015 @ 1:31 pm

  27. “When the Syrian protests were militarised they [the PYD] refused to get drawn in.” Yes, we remember how they tried to teach the FSA an entirely different approach to resisting being slaughtered by genocidal fascists. Months and months after the Assad genocide regime began slaughtering people with machine guns, then tanks and artillery and later warplanes, scud missiles and barrel bombs, the people began fighting back with arms, and that was called the FSA. What stupid “militarisers” these FSA were. By contrast, when the Kurds of Kobani were under brutal siege by ISIS genocidists in 2014, the YPG refused to get militarise, and threw flowers at ISIS instead. And as we saw, this non-militaristic method routed ISIS. [of course, massive US airstrikes helped out with this non-militaristic approach, but these were the non-imperialist US air strikes].

    Comment by mkaradjis — December 6, 2015 @ 2:03 pm

  28. Proyect asserts I will spin his quote. I won’t. I’ll just put a link to the article the quote came from (which also includes this quote: “No, never. Whoever says this is disrespecting our martyr brothers. We have been fighting with the regime since the 2004 Kurdish uprising. We have nothing in common with them. They don’t recognize Kurdish identity. But others are worse than the regime.”) http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/politics/2013/10/syria-kurds-assad-solution-salih-muslim.html
    Worth adding that while the PYD was fighting the regime since 2004, the most secular leaders of the FSA were until 2011 fighting FOR the regime – they’re military defectors. Also worth noting that the FSA is not a single organisation. At the moment in Aleppo there are some FSA groups fighting alongside the YPJ/YPG forces and others fighting alongside Jihadis against them.

    Comment by tony — December 6, 2015 @ 11:24 pm

  29. Worth adding that while the PYD was fighting the regime since 2004, the most secular leaders of the FSA were until 2011 fighting FOR the regime – they’re military defectors.

    So sad to see Tony use this as an argument. In 1960 I was a member of the Young Americans for Freedom. In 1967 I joined the SWP. People change.

    But Tony would rather hold someone’s past against them than against a jerk like Salih Muslim who repeats the talking points of the Baathist amen corner. Anybody who claims that Syrians would use sarin gas on their own families in a “false flag” operation is talking shit. I can understand why Salih Muslim would do such a thing since the Kurds have been involved in a kind of live and let live pirouette with the regime that might help achieve their nationalistic agenda. That’s the reason the Cubans and the Venezuelans have had such a crappy position on Syria as well. But what is Tony’s excuse? Which families are reliant on him for food or medicine? None. He is just a two-bit ideologue like Yoshie Furuhashi or Walter Lippmann. It is a sort of half-baked Stalinism that allows people to look the other direction when the group they idolize does something wrong. Disgusting really.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 6, 2015 @ 11:59 pm

  30. #26 “…..the same crappy politics as Kevin Ovenden”.

    I never joined the SWP and would never have joined Respect.
    Also, I think Ovenden currently putting an equals sign between the US-French-British intervention in Syria & the Russian-Iranian intervention.
    – which I don’t.
    Other than that we have the same “crappy” politics!

    btw. I think the case for the Assad regime’s responsibility for the E.Ghouta Sarin attack remains unproven. (Independent experts at MIT said the shell which they examined couldn’t have been fired from a regime position. It was also totally against Assad’s interests to do so given Obama’s ultimatum on chemical weapons.
    One useful side effect was that the Russians persuaded Assad to get rid of his chemical weapons – result.

    #27 Karadjis –
    It wasn’t simply US airstrikes which won the battle of Kobani.
    It was the fact that the PYD had created a party and a disciplined militia which follows its programme.
    This unifies the population in the areas it now controls.

    There were ements within Syria and in neighbouring countries which wanted to precipitate an armed struggle at all costs.
    The FSA wasn’t the basis for forming a political party and thus couldn’t stop the armed opposition groups coming under the control of Turkey, Saudi Arabia & MOC in Jordan.
    – there’s the difference.

    Comment by prianikoff — December 7, 2015 @ 12:13 pm

  31. btw. I think the case for the Assad regime’s responsibility for the E.Ghouta Sarin attack remains unproven.


    Obviously. This is the number one identification of membership in the Baathist amen corner, as consistent as that of the stripe down a skunk’s back.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 7, 2015 @ 1:35 pm

  32. prianikoff: “It wasn’t simply US airstrikes which won the battle of Kobani. It was the fact that the PYD had created a party and a disciplined militia which follows its programme.”

    I didn’t say it was only the massive US airstrikes which won the battle of Kobani. Of course the YPG fought very effectively. I guess I need to spell the irony out for you? You noted that the PYD opposed the the FSA “militarising” the uprising. In other words, they believe that, faced with months and months of being slaughtered by Assad as they peacefully protested, the FSA should simply have continued to throw flowers at the Assad army. So I jived that as ISIS besieged Kobani, the YPG, refusing to “militarise”, defeated ISIS by merely throwing flowers at ISIS. (And added that this non-militaristic strategy apparently advocated by the YPG was supplemented by other non-militaristic methods, such as massive US airstrikes). Hope that’s clearer now.

    “There were elements within Syria and in neighbouring countries which wanted to precipitate an armed struggle at all costs.”

    Nonsense. Of course, it is true of elements in Syria, namely the regime. That was the whole point of the massacre of peaceful protest. But “neighbouring countries” such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey were solidly behind Assad as he slaughtered the uprising, taking many months and thousands of deaths to switch over. When Syrian troops began refusing to kill their brothers and sisters and instead began protecting them (a process known as “militarisation” and “formation of the FSA”), they did so as soldiers do in other revolutions, and the dynamic was entirely internal. It had exactly nothing to d with any to do with any neighbouring country pushing an armed conflict “at all cost”. They came later to coopt an already existing reality.

    Tony: “Worth adding that while the PYD was fighting the regime since 2004, the most secular leaders of the FSA were until 2011 fighting FOR the regime – they’re military defectors.”

    I can’t believe Tony wrote this. Even on its own terms, it “forgets” that the PKK collaborated with Assad with two decades before 1999, kind of cancelling out the point, if you really wanted to argue that way. Of course an ethnic minority has a special reason towant to fight a regime that nationally oppresses them. But I guess throughout all this period that struggle was subdued and sacrificed to the diplomatic needs of the PKK. More importantly, Tony is dissing the very nature of the process of revolution, when sections of the armed forces break with the regime. I guess the “workers, soldiers and farmers soviets” of 1917 should just be the workers and farmers, since those soldiers soviets “had been fighting FOR the Tsarist regime” up until 1917, a bunch of opportunists who only switched sides when they saw the writing on the wall. (for Prianikoff’s sake: irony alert).

    Comment by mkaradjis — December 8, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

  33. Maybe the PYD was excluded because of this.

    Syria’s Assad admits sending weapons to Kurdish militia: http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_syrias-assad-admits-sending-weapons-to-kurdish-militia_406448.html

    Comment by louisproyect — December 9, 2015 @ 12:00 am

  34. So now you’re saying if Assad says it must be true.

    Comment by tony — December 9, 2015 @ 4:33 am

  35. I have no idea whether it is true or not but even if it isn’t, why would Assad lie? There is an underlying political issue that epitomizes the failure of the Kurdish movement to become part of the movement to rid Syria of the bloodiest tyrant in recent memory. When Salih Muslim warns about the danger to the Alawites if Assad is toppled, he is undermining that struggle in some ways more grievously than any shipment of arms to the PYD from Damascus.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 9, 2015 @ 4:05 pm

  36. Re. Proyect #35

    Just looking at the groups who are attending the Riyadh meeting shows how ludicrous your allegation is. The PYD aren’t in Riyadh because they’re involved in an armed struggle with at least 2 of the groups that are:- Jaysh al Islam & Ahrar al Sham – not to mention their backers in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

    re. Karadjis #33
    Assad’s Shabiha cracked down brutally in 2011, which fractured the army on sectarian lines.
    As the FSA weren’t able to create a political alternative, so the Islamists filled the vacuum.
    That changed the political equation.
    You cling to your FSA delusions, but the progressive elements in the FSA are working with the PYD. The rest joined the Islamists, or are in the CIA vetted militias.

    The choice is obvious; no cooperation with the Riyadh conference.
    Crtitical support to Derik.

    Comment by prianikoff — December 10, 2015 @ 10:41 am

  37. The PYD aren’t in Riyadh because they’re involved in an armed struggle with at least 2 of the groups that are:- Jaysh al Islam & Ahrar al Sham…

    Yes, that is what happens when the Kurds put their own narrow interests over those trying to overthrow the Assad dictatorship.


    Comment by louisproyect — December 10, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

  38. Proyect, your slandering of revolutionaries and promotion of vicious human rights abusers like Jaysh al Islam & Ahrar al Sham puts you in the same category as those who slander the revolutionaries and promote Assad. Leaving aside the many refutations of that Amnesty report, if you actually read it you would know that see that it doesn’t accuse the YPG of killing a single civilian. Same cannot be said of those meeting in Riyadh — or their hosts. Ask Amnesty if you don’t believe me.

    Comment by Tony — December 12, 2015 @ 10:12 pm

  39. Who said it claimed that the Kurds killed anybody? It only said that they ethnically cleansed Arabs. It is not as if this sort of thing hasn’t happened in the past.

    Washington Post
    Wednesday, June 15, 2005
    Kurdish Officials Sanction Abductions in Kirkuk
    By Steve Fainaru and Anthony Shadid

    KIRKUK, Iraq — Police and security units, forces led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the U.S. military, have abducted hundreds of minority Arabs and Turkmens in this intensely volatile city and spirited them to prisons in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, government documents and families of the victims.

    Seized off the streets of Kirkuk or in joint U.S.-Iraqi raids, the men have been transferred secretly and in violation of Iraqi law to prisons in the Kurdish cities of Irbil and Sulaymaniyah, sometimes with the knowledge of U.S. forces. The detainees, including merchants, members of tribal families and soldiers, have often remained missing for months; some have been tortured, according to released prisoners and the Kirkuk police chief.

    A confidential State Department cable, obtained by The Washington Post and addressed to the White House, Pentagon and U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, said the “extra-judicial detentions” were part of a “concerted and widespread initiative” by Kurdish political parties “to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner.”

    The abductions have “greatly exacerbated tensions along purely ethnic lines” and endangered U.S. credibility, the nine-page cable, dated June 5, stated. “Turkmen in Kirkuk tell us they perceive a U.S. tolerance for the practice while Arabs in Kirkuk believe Coalition Forces are directly responsible.”

    The cable said the 116th Brigade Combat Team, which oversees security in Kirkuk, had urged Kurdish officials to end the practice. “I can tell you that the coalition forces absolutely do not condone it,” Brig. Gen. Alan Gayhart, the brigade commander, said in an interview.

    Kirkuk, a city of almost 1 million, is home to Iraq’s most combustible mix of politics and economic power. Kurds, who are just shy of a majority in the city and are growing in number, hope to make Kirkuk and the vast oil reserves beneath it part of an autonomous Kurdistan. Arabs and Turkmens compose most of the rest of the population. They have struck an alliance to curb the ambitions of the Kurds, who have wielded increasing authority in a long-standing collaboration with their U.S. allies.

    Some abductions occurred more than a year ago. But according to U.S. officials, Kirkuk police and Arab leaders, the campaign surged after the Jan. 30 elections consolidated the two main Kurdish parties’ control over the Kirkuk provincial government. The two parties are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The U.S. military said it had logged 180 cases; Arab and Turkmen politicians put the number at more than 600 and said many families feared retribution for coming forward.

    U.S. and Iraqi officials, along with the State Department cable, said the campaign was being orchestrated and carried out by the Kurdish intelligence agency, known as Asayesh, and the Kurdish-led Emergency Services Unit, a 500-member anti-terrorism squad within the Kirkuk police force. Both are closely allied with the U.S. military. The intelligence agency is made up of Kurds, and the emergency unit is composed of a mixture of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens.

    full: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/14/AR2005061401828.html

    Comment by louisproyect — December 12, 2015 @ 10:30 pm

  40. Mr Proyect, what on earth does the crimes of the KRG parties have to do with the YPG? Your post above is equivalent to holding Joseph Daher’s groupescule responsible for the crimes of the Sudanese government because both are ethnic Arabs

    Comment by Tony — December 14, 2015 @ 9:49 pm

  41. What about the fact Vijay Prashad showed recently that Erdogan has been involved in ISIS oil profits?

    Comment by Andrew Stewart — December 29, 2015 @ 11:20 pm

  42. Vijay is a very committed anti-imperialist but he is also a supporter of Assad. I was shocked to see him tweeting about Assad’s electoral victory in 2014, which is tantamount to being excited over what Chomsky called demonstration elections in Latin America. Furthermore, any article that tries to nail Turkey by citing a Russian doesn’t pass the smell test. But that’s par for the course at Counterpunch.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 29, 2015 @ 11:45 pm

  43. Here’s a quote from the Real News transcript:

    JAY: So first of all, what do we know about how the oil gets out? It seems a little bizarre to me that such industrial-scale exports can take place without all the various countries that are supposedly attacking IS being able to stop this.

    PRASHAD: Well, first I should say that there are a number of reports and studies that have been conducted. The Financial Times has done some reporting. Al-Araby Al-Jadeed has done a major study on the I think 26th of November, which they called Raqqa’s Rockefeller. The Russian government has released their own paper on what they claim is going on between the ISIS territory, Turkey, and Israel. I did a report called ISIS Oil. So there’s a number of people who have been looking at the phenomena of ISIS oil and how it’s both being taken out of the ground and where it’s going, how ISIS is able to make money.

    If it was just Russia, okay, but when you have Qatari and Japanese-owned periodicals also publishing corroborating materials, there certainly is something smelly, but it sure ain’t Prashad.

    Comment by Andrew Stewart — December 30, 2015 @ 12:08 am

  44. There is no question that oil is being smuggled out of Syria from ISIS-controlled fields but Al-Araby only refers to independent truckers with no connection to the Turkish state:

    “After IS oil lorries arrive in Zakho – normally 70 to 100 of them at a time – they are met by oil smuggling mafias, a mix of Syrian and Iraqi Kurds, in addition to some Turks and Iranians,” the colonel continued.

    “The person in charge of the oil shipment sells the oil to the highest bidder,” the colonel added. Competition between organised gangs has reached fever pitch, and the assassination of mafia leaders has become commonplace.

    Smuggling has been going on in the Middle East long before the war in Syria. In fact, the best way to understand these oil markets is by reading Ken Silverstein, who is much more knowledgable than Vijay.


    Comment by louisproyect — December 30, 2015 @ 12:22 am

  45. From the RAQQA’S ROCKEFELLER report (http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/features/2015/11/26/raqqas-rockefellers-how-islamic-state-oil-flows-to-israel):
    “Oil produced from fields under the control of the Islamic State group is at the heart of a new investigation by al-Araby al-Jadeed. The black gold is extracted, transported and sold, providing the armed group with a vital financial lifeline.

    But who buys it? Who finances the murderous brutality that has taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria? How does it get from the ground to the petrol tank, and who profits along the way?

    The Islamic State group uses millions of dollars in oil revenues to expand and manage vast areas under its control, home to around five million civilians.

    IS sells Iraqi and Syrian oil for a very low price to Kurdish and Turkish smuggling networks and mafias, who label it and sell it on as barrels from the Kurdistan Regional Government.”

    Silverstein’s interview is, if anything, complimentary to that material. In reality, it has nothing to do with this story and is from over a year ago whereas this story broke 20 days ago.

    Comment by Andrew Stewart — December 30, 2015 @ 12:27 am

  46. The Islamic State group uses millions of dollars in oil revenues to expand and manage vast areas under its control, home to around five million civilians.

    The Islamic State does not finance itself primarily through oil sales.It could easily subsist without it. It mainly finances itself through taxing the people under its control, which produces six times as much revenue as oil. You need to follow this stuff in the NY Times which is much more reliable than the Russian or Qatari press:


    As long as it controls Mosul and other large cities with an alienated Sunni population, the money will keep flowing into its coffers.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 30, 2015 @ 12:41 am

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