Turkey’s NATO Trap for Obama

Turkey’s NATO Trap for Obama

Turkey, a NATO member with a religious-Sunni, right-wing political base, is setting a dangerous trap for President Obama.

The United States cannot let itself be drawn into war with Syria by virtue of its formal alliance with Turkey, through NATO. Already, Turkey has been shelling Syria. For more than a year, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan has been itching for a fight with Syria, and now—following a minor incident involving a single mortar shell that crossed the Syrian-Turkish border—he may get one.

If he does, the United States has to stay out of it.

Weirdly, it isn’t even known who fired the mortar, which landed in a Turkish village. As The New York Timesreports: “It was unclear if the mortar that struck Turkey was fired by government forces or by rebels fighting to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.”

The problem for Obama is, if he backs Turkey in what is looking increasingly like Turkish nationalist frenzy, a combination Sunni-Muslim solidarity with Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood rebels and old Ottoman Empire wistfulness, he’ll find himself involved in yet another Middle East war with no end. And if he doesn’t, count on Mitt Romney to accuse him of abandoning a NATO ally.

Various NATO and European circles are calling for restraint, including Catherine Ashton of the EU and the British foreign secretary, William Hague. But the Turks don’t seem ready to restrain themselves, even though their allies in the Syrian civil war are more and more overt terrorists. The horrific bombings in Aleppothis week that left scores of Syrians dead have now been claimed by a partner of Al Qaeda in Syria, a little-known grouplet called Jabhet al-Nusra. The Syrian revolt is increasingly marked by outright terrorism, and extremist Islamists are all over the place. (In contrast, the mainstream part of the revolt seems to be led by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is far more extreme and less moderate than, say, the branch that runs Egypt today.)

Worryingly, US rhetoric is not exactly emphasizing restraint. Hillary Clinton said she was “outraged” by the minor mortar attack into Turkey, which could have been shrugged off, and she said that the situation was “very, very dangerous.” The Pentagon spokesman called it “yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime.” And, despite the relatively restrained comments from some NATO members, NATO itself seemed to activate its formal alliance mechanism, pledging “to stand by Turkey,” adding that it “demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law.” Or else?

A statement from Clinton’s office expressed solidarity with Turkey, in the NATO context, reports The Cable:

She pledged the United States’ strong support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Turkish ally and endorsed the statement in the North Atlantic Council this evening, which condemned Syria’s aggression and called for Alliance solidarity with Turkey. She also made clear that the United States would support Turkey in the United Nations Security Council as well.

And, thanks to The Cable, Clinton’s full statement:

We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful about the loss of life that has occurred on the Turkish side,” Clinton said. “But this also comes down to a regime that is causing untold suffering to its own people, solely driven by their desire to stay in power, aided and abetted by nations like Iran that are standing firmly beside the Assad regime regardless of the damage, the loss of life, the violence that is happening both inside of Syria and now increasingly across Syria’s borders with their neighbors. It’s a very, very dangerous situation.

Russia, which has strongly warned against foreign intervention in Syria, has urged Damascus to say that the attack on Syria was an accident. Said Foreign Minister Lavrov, who’s in Pakistan:

Through our ambassador to Syria, we have spoken to the Syrian authorities who assured us…that what happened at the border with Turkey was a tragic accident, and that it will not happen again. We think it is of fundamental importance for Damascus to state that officially.

Meanwhile, the Turks are blustering and the Turkey’s parliament has authorized more strikes.

For a hint on how Romney might handle this situation, read Robert Dreyfuss’s last post on the candidate’s fearmongerng Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Has Putin Signed-On To Defend Tajikistan, As Well As Kyrgyzstan?–Against Whom?

Russia Keeps Tajik Base, Risking Taliban Face-Off

Vladimir Putin and Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe

Vladimir Putin and Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe

© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Klementiev

DUSHANBE/MOSCOW, October 5 (Alexey Eremenko, RIA Novosti)

 

Russia won a 30-year deal on a military base in Tajikistan, but the price includes risk of placing Russian servicemen under fire if violence flares up in volatile Central Asia.

Moscow and Dushanbe clinched an agreement on Friday on a Russian military base in Tajikistan, which will remain in the country until at least 2042, a Russian presidential aide said.

The agreement, which followed months of haggling, is a success for Russian diplomacy, Russian and Western analysts said.

But it also means that Russia agrees to use military force to maintain peace in Central Asia, a region that is set to grow much more turbulent after the US forces pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, pundits said.

The deal was sealed during a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon in the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Putin’s aide, Yury Ushakov, said.

The current agreement on the base was set to expire in 2014, but was prolonged for 30 years, with the option of repeatedly extending it for five years after that date, Ushakov said. Russia sought to extend the deal for 49 years, while Tajikistan wanted to limit it to 10 years.

Media reports said earlier Tajikistan wanted $250 million a year to host the base, which hosts 7,000 troops across three locations. But Ushakov said on Friday that Russia would get the base “almost free of charge.” He gave no further details.

The Taliban Are Coming

Destabilization is imminent in Central Asia after US troops’ pullout from Afghanistan, analysts said.

The Taliban is hoping to return to power in Afghanistan or at least increase their influence, which would likely resonate throughout the region, said Alexander Knyazev from the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Tensions between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are also riding high due to the conflict over the Rogun Dam, which is in the works in Tajikistan, he said.

The situation inside Tajikistan is shaky as well, as evidenced by a recent spate of violence in the Gorno-Badakhshan province, where the government failed to suppress a rebellion by a local warlord in July and had to negotiate, said Vladimir Bartenev, head of the Center for Security and Development Studies at the Moscow State University.

The Russian base is crucial in this regard, with 7,000 highly qualified troops keeping hotheads all across the region from rash armed action, Knyazev said.

But they may be in for some serious testing by the Taliban, said Paul Quinn-Judge, an expert on Central Asia at the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based watchdog.

The extent of havoc that the Islamists will be able to wreak across Central Asia after 2014 is hard to evaluate in advance, Quinn-Judge conceded.

But it is at least “conceivable” that the Russian troops in Tajikistan would even be required to conduct operations in northern Afghanistan, returning to the country for the first time after the lost Afghan war of 1979-1989, he said.

“Russia would be expected to protect Tajikistan now…and the risk would grow after 2014,” Quinn-Judge said.

Base Haggling

The US deadline of 2014 made it imperative that the Russia prolong the base deal, set to expire the same year, experts said.

The cordial accord on Friday, however, was preceded by a year of tense negotiations, with the deadline for the deal’s signing repeatedly pushed back. Just last week, the commander of the Russian Ground Forces, Vladimir Chirkin, predicted that the agreement prolonging Russian troops’ stay in Tajikistan would not be sealed until summer 2013.

“Tajik authorities acted as if they were at a bazaar,” said Knyazev of the Institute of Oriental Studies.

The deal was accompanied by a set of other agreements, including Russia’s pledge to extend residency and work permits for Tajik nationals. Money sent home from Russia by the 1.1 million Tajik workers in the country amounted to $3 billion in 2011, making up around half of the impoverished republic’s GDP, Putin’s aide Ushakov said.

Russia would also step up cooperation with Tajikistan on combatting illegal drugs, giving Dushanbe $5 million to the purpose.

Moscow is also “considering” involvement in Tajikistan’s plans to build a set of hydro power plants on the country’s interior rivers, Putin said after talks with Rahmon. He did not elaborate.

Tajikistan is building the 335-meter-high Rogun Dam on the Vakhsh River. The project was lambasted by neighboring Uzbekistan, which fears the dam would decrease its supply of drinking water, a precious commodity in arid Central Asia.

The package deal on migration, anti-drug campaigning and energy indicated that Russian diplomacy finally learned to use economic incentives to accomplish its goals, said Bartenev of the Center for Security and Development Studies.

What Would the Neighbors Think

Moscow clinched last month a similar deal with Kyrgyzstan, which will host a Russian military base though at least 2032, writing off $500 million of Kyrgyz debts in exchange. The Central Asian republic also houses a US military base, but it is set to be closed by 2014.

Speeding the Tajik deal was important for Putin, who is very conscious of Russia’s image in the West and sees Central Asia, a zone of Russia’s alleged “privileged interests,” as a means of boosting Moscow’s international prestige, Quinn-Judge said.

But at the same time, the deal with Dushanbe is bound to irk Uzbekistan, an aspiring regional power which has been leaning toward the United States in recent months, Knyazev said.

A delegation of 17 America senior military officials is touring Uzbekistan this week, adding weight to reports that the United States plan to set up a transit base in the country to aid the pullout of its forces from Afghanistan.

“You can’t exchange a queen for two pawns,” Knyazev said, referring to Russia’s deals with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan at the expense of Uzbekistan. “But I hope Putin is just sounding off on the situation before beginning dialogue with [Uzbekistan’s capital] Tashkent.”

Did the Mexican and U.S. government negotiate with the Sinaloa Drug Cartel?

Did the Mexican and U.S. government negotiate with the Sinaloa Drug Cartel?

VOXXI

By Phillippe Diederich USA

An article in Business Insider claims that according to leaked emails that is exactly what happened. In the emails, an anonymous Mexican Diplomat identifying himself as MX-1 said the U.S. pretty much invited the Sinaloa Drug Cartel into the U.S. The leaked emails date back to 2010 and are correspondence from Stratfor, a private security firm which operates all over the world. The emails were made public by Wikileaks and posted on their website in August.

The Business Insider article points out that the statements made to Stratfor by MX-1, which Bill Conroy of Nacro News says sounds just like statements by Fernando de la Mora Salcedo, a Mexican foreign service officer, support the theory that Sinlaloa Cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is an informant for the U.S., and that Operation Fast and Furious was a deal to exchange arms for information between the cartel and the U.S.

Joaquin Guzman Did the Mexican and U.S. government negotiate with the Sinaloa Drug Cartel?

FILE – In this June 10, 1993 file photo, Joaquin Guzman Loera, alias “El Chapo Guzman” is shown to the press after his arrest at the high security prison of Almoloya de Juarez, outskirts of Mexico City. In the 10 years since he escaped from a high security federal prison in a laundry truck, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has transformed himself from a middling Mexican capo into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file)

The Stratfor emails point to concerns about cartel violence in Ciudad Juarez, and along the border, where the U.S has a free-trade zone with Mexico, and where U.S. maquiladora factories and assembly plants sprawl out along the Mexican side of the border. Violence is bad for business. In some of the emails, Stratfor staffers show concern that wealthy, large business owners are making deals with the drug cartels in order to continue operating without violence or problems.

In some of the emails MX-1 talks of how the cartels and both the Mexican and U.S. government speak through “signals,” and not through meetings. In one of the emails MX-1 tells Stratfor staffers how the Mexican government signals the cartels, allowing them to operate as long as there is no violence.

Here is MX-1′s explanation:

In any event, “negotiations” would take place (assuming a non-disputed plaza) as follows:

– They bring some drugs, they transport some drugs, they are discrete, they don’t bother anyone, no one gets hurt.

– Government turns the other way

– They kill someone or do something violent

– Government responds by taking down drug network or making arrests.

And if it is a disputed plaza, this is how it works:

– Group comes in, government waits to see how dominant cartel responds

– If dominant cartel fights them, government takes them down

– If dominant cartel is allied, no problem.

– If group comes in and starts committing violence, they get taken down: first by the government letting the dominant cartel do their

thing, then punishing both cartels.

“As you can see, this is not a good strategy, but this is how ‘negotiations’ take place with cartels, through signals. There are no meetings, etc…”

The U.S. and the Mexican government want the inter-narco violence to stop. To do so, they would allow drugs to move north to the U.S. as long as there is little or no violence. In the signals the U.S. government gave the cartels, the U.S. took the side of the Sinaloa Cartel, telling Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who heads the Juarez Cartel, that the Sinaloa Cartel is stronger. Here is what MX-1 wrote in the email:

So, the MX strategy is not to negotiate. However, I think the US sent a signal that could be construed as follows:

“To the VCF and Sinaloa cartels: Thank you for providing our market with drugs over the years. We are now concerned about your perpetration of violence, and would like to see you stop that. In this regard, please know that Sinaloa is bigger and better than VCF. Also note that CDJ is very important to us, as is the whole border. In this light, please talk amongst yourselves and lets all get back to business. Again, we recognize that Sinaloa is bigger and better, so either VCF gets in line or we will mess you up.”

MX-1 also adds at the end of the email, “In sum, I have a gut feeling that the US agencies tried to send a signal telling the cartels to negotiate themselves. They unilaterally declared a winner, and this is unprecedented, and deserves analysis.”

Did the strategy by the U.S. and Mexican governments work? According to the report “Drug Violence in Mexico; Data and Analysis Through 2011″ by the Trans-Border Institute, organized crime violence along the border actually decreased in 2011. The report says, “Mexican border cities accounted for 29.5 percent of such homicides in 2010, but only 17 percent in 2011.”

So is the U.S. aiding Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and the Sinaloa Cartel? According to a July 2012 report in  Al Jazeera, this is exactly what is going on. The article claims Mexican officials have said the U.S. government does not fight drug trafficking as much as manage it. And while this sounds like a conspiracy theory to many, one need only look back at Dark Alliance, where the CIA covered up Contra drug trafficking into the U.S. Now we also have Operation Fast and Furious where the U.S. government purposely smuggled weapons into Mexico and then lost track of them.

The full text of the Joint Statement of the Presidents of Tajikistan and Russia

The full text of the Joint Statement of the Presidents of Tajikistan and Russia

Asia-Plus

At the invitation of the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, Russian President Vladimir Putin 05.04 October 2012 visit to the Republic of Tajikistan on an official visit.

The Heads of State during the talks held in an atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding, confirmed their willingness to deepen the political dialogue, identify ways of further development of the Russian-Tajik relations. The sides discussed topical international and regional issues of mutual interest.

1. The Heads of State noted with satisfaction the steady positive dynamics of interaction between Russia and Tajikistan in the political, economic, humanitarian, military, military-technical cooperation and reaffirm their continued commitment to the principles and obligations enshrined in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and Republic of Tajikistan on May 25, 1993, the Treaty on allied relations between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Tajikistan, oriented in the XXI century, from 16 April 1999, as well as the positions of the Parties, as recorded in the Joint Statement of the President of the Russian Federation and the President of the Republic of Tajikistan on September 2, 2011 year.

Confirmed a strong disposition to strengthen the relations of friendship, strategic partnership and their transfer to a new level that will benefit both nations, their security and prosperity.

2. Both sides expressed the desire to build up contacts at the highest levels, to deepen cooperation in the interests of efficiency of cooperation on key issues of bilateral relations and international issues.

3. Stressing the importance of mutually beneficial economic ties, the presidents noted the need to enhance the role of the bilateral intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation in order to broaden the base of economic, trade and investment cooperation, topical solutions for Tajikistan economic tasks through the effective use of the economic potential of the two countries, the preservation and further development mutual benefit of industrial, economic, scientific and technical relations.

The heads of state are going to focus on the effective implementation of programs of bilateral economic cooperation.

The Parties will give priority to increasing the volume of industrial diversification and economic cooperation through joint implementation of projects in the mining, construction areas, light and food industries, production of industrial goods and agricultural products processing.

4. The President supports investment participation of Russian companies in oil and gas exploration and development of the fuel and energy potential of Tajikistan. The Russian side will continue to take concrete action on geological survey for oil and gas allocated to the areas of Tajikistan, as well as in the mining industry, in the production, processing and marketing of agricultural products in both countries, the banking sector and other promising segments of the Tajik economy.

5. The Heads of State reiterated their principled commitment to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of water and energy resources of the Republic of Tajikistan, which is part of their strategic partnership.

6. Tajik Party welcomes the intention of the Russian authorities to take part in regional energy projects. The Russian side will fully support the efforts of the Tajik parties to use its hydropower capacity to promote regional development.

7. The parties will fully promote the activities of Russian and Tajik investors, ensure legal protection of business interests, to promote an effective joint ventures, to take practical measures for the rational deployment of new and modernization of existing facilities.

8. Marked by a mutual interest in creating the necessary conditions for the expansion of economic and cultural cooperation between the regions as an efficient and promising form of strengthening the economic and humanitarian components of their relationship, strongly encourage direct business relations at the level of regions.

9. Emphasized mutual readiness to further coordination in the field of disaster management and human-induced disasters.

10. Will take concrete steps to implement steps to deepen cooperation in improving legal mechanisms for regulating labor migration, including the establishment of an appropriate legal and social conditions for migrant workers in each other by increasing the time of their registration and work permits.

11. Parties condemned nationalism and xenophobia, incitement of ethnic hatred, and noted the importance of taking appropriate measures to suppress, in their territories of the organizations, groups or individuals who incite violence against citizens because of their nationality.

12. Continue to deepen cooperation in military and military-technical cooperation on the basis of relevant agreements and programs, as well as in strengthening the external borders of the Commonwealth of Independent States in its Tajik-Afghan area, both on a bilateral basis and within the framework of regional organizations.

13. Highly evaluated the status of implementation of the existing agreements in the military field. It was noted that the military cooperation between Russia and Tajikistan successfully developing in all directions. The parties stressed the importance of a signed package of documents on cooperation in military and military-technical cooperation, including the Agreement on the status and conditions of the Russian military base (201 RMB) in the Republic of Tajikistan, in order to effectively meet the challenges and threats to national and regional security.

The parties confirmed their readiness to provide all the necessary conditions for the full implementation of obligations under the above agreement to address the base of its tasks.

14. Presidents will provide state support of the Russian language in Tajikistan and the Tajik language in Russia will contribute to regular meetings between representatives of the scientific and public circles, artists.

15. Reaffirmed the commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Awarded priority of strengthening the central coordinating role of the United Nations and its Security Council in international affairs. Interaction will be enhanced in order to increase the effectiveness of multilateral efforts to promote peace, security and stability and the prevention of armed conflicts, the peaceful settlement of disputes, counter global challenges such as terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organized crime.

16. The Presidents noted the need for deeper economic integration in the CIS, CSTO turning into a central institution counter a wide range of threats and challenges in the area of ​​responsibility of the Organization.

17. Parties will continue to work to improve the activities of the Commonwealth of Independent States on the basis of further development of the Concept Plan and the key actions for its implementation, will strive to adopt effective measures aimed at the development of integration and cooperation relations within the CIS.

18. Realizing the potential for further cooperation will be promoted practical cooperation in the political, economic and other fields in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to deepen good-neighborly, friendly and partnership relations between the Member States, the empowerment of the SCO effectively confront challenges.

19. Russia and Tajikistan will continue to promote the reform initiatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in order to turn it into an effective mechanism for collective interaction while maintaining the inviolability of the principle of consensus as the basis for the functioning of the OSCE.

20. Confirmed the relevance of inter-parliamentary relations. Expressed the belief that the supreme legislative bodies of both countries will continue to make a significant contribution to the development of a multi-faceted and mutually beneficial cooperation between Russia and Tajikistan.

21. Presidents discussed the situation in Afghanistan, confirmed the importance of promoting the early establishment of peace and harmony in this country, given the UN’s leading role in international efforts for Afghan settlement, called for increased cooperation on Afghanistan in bilateral and multilateral formats.

As one of the priority areas in the maintenance of regional stability, the parties shall consider the prevention of terrorist and narcotic threats emanating from Afghanistan.

22. The Parties shall take the necessary measures to further expand and improve the legal framework for bilateral relations with a view to practical cooperation between the foreign, economic, defense and other departments.

23. Heads of State stressed the importance of the Agreement signed by the Parties on the status and conditions of the Russian military base in Tajikistan, the memorandum on cooperation in the military field, in the supply of petroleum products and the further development of cooperation in the field of migration.

The parties agreed as soon as possible to develop and prepare to sign the intergovernmental agreement on the basis of the memorandum.

24. The President expressed confidence that the implementation of the agreements, as reflected in this statement will serve to deepen the strategic partnership and allied relations between the two countries in order to improve the well-being of their peoples and in strengthening peace, stability and prosperity in the entire region of Central Asia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his gratitude to the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, all Tajik people for the warm welcome and hospitality extended to the Russian delegation, and invited the head of the Republic of Tajikistan to visit Russia at a convenient time.

The invitation was accepted with gratitude.

Dushanbe, October 5, 2012