In the wake of the Paris attacks, the centripetal tendency in world affairs seems to hold sway—a further Great Power convergence against ISIS. When the French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle reaches its position off Syria's coast, it joins a Russian guided missile cruiser already there—and cooperation between the two powers appears imminent. "Under the Russian president's decree, the General Staff is working out joint anti-terrorism operations with the French Navy," said Col-Gen. Andrey Kartapolov, deputy chief of staff, according to Moscow's state news agency Tass. "With the arrival of the Charles de Gaulle warship to the Syrian shore we will organize joint military operations." Citing Kartapolov, Tass also claimed, "Russian warplanes have destroyed about 500 fuel tank trucks that were illegally transporting oil from Syria to Iraq for refining." While not stated, this presumably means ISIS oil. (NPR)
Russia to focus fire on ISIS —really?
Moscow may be about to focus its air campaign in Syria on ISIS now that the "Islamic State" has taken credit for the bombing of Russian airliner over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people onboard. (RT) Is it happening? "Russia Pounds ISIS With Biggest Bomber Raid in Decades," the Daily Beast reads. But the account does not provide details of what was hit and where, beyond "the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo"—which, as the account actually notes, are not in ISIS territory. (The Daily Beast being as problematic as ever.)
Almost 80% of Russia's declared targets in Syria have been in areas not held by ISIS, a Reuters analysis of Russian Defence Ministry data showed Oct. 21—undermining Moscow's assertions that its aim is to defeat the "Islamic State." We've noted the Russian propaganda trick of using the acronym "ISIS" to refer to any Syrian rebel force, even those that oppose ISIS. Is this about to change?
Kurds caught in the Great Game —again
The intelligence and security chief of Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government, Masrour Barzani, also spoke as if he expects a major new internationally backed thurst against ISIS, sayiing the Islamic State could be defeated in "months perhaps even weeks" if Western powers back the effort. He said that he hoped the Paris attacks would lead to "more engagement and more commitment to eradicate" ISIS. (BBC News) This may be an intentional play to exploit the Paris terror to win new weaponry for his forces, but it comes days after Barzani's Peshmerga claimed a key victory in the liberation of Sinjar. Next stop could be Mosul, the major ISIS stronghold in Iraq.
Kurdish-led forces in Syria have meanwhile launched a US-backed offensive on Raqqa, the ISIS capital. But reports indicate that Turkey may be seeking to foment a Kurdish civil war, playing the KRG against the Rojava Kurds of Syria. The first visit out of the country by Turkey's foreign minister Feridun Sinirlioglu following the AK party's election victory was to Iraqi Kurdistan. "The visit was seen as part of Ankara's efforts to secure the support of Iraqi Kurds in its battle against the PKK Kurdish rebel group and its affiliate in Syria, the PYD," writes Voice of America. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), fighting for Kurdish autonomy within Turkey, is allied with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which governs Rojava, the Kurdish region of northern Syria.
Police state in France; counter-insurgency in Turkey
Alarmingly, French authorities have banned all public gatherings and protests, with the state of emergency still in effect. Depsite this, hundreds gathered in peaceful solidarity in Paris, Arras and Lille, while anti-immigrant marches were held in Brittany. Daily Motion posted footage of xenphobes with an "EXPULSONS LES ISLAMISTES" banner being driven from Place de la République in Lille by an advance of antifa counter-protesters. Maddeningly, TeleSur informs us that two protests in Paris were cancelled: one against recent squatter evictions and another in solidarity with the Kurds of Silvan.
The death-toll in the southeastern Turkish town of Silvan continues to mount as security forces attempt to clear out areas held by the PKK's youth wing. Troops are reportedly firing on unarmed Kurdish youth who defy the curfew imposed on the town 12 days ago. Tanks and combat helicopters have been brought in, and one solider has been killed. Local MPs have warned that the town is facing dire shortages of water, food and electricity, and one accused Ankara of trying to "massacre" the population. (Today's Zaman, Nov. 18; Radio Australia, Nov. 12)
Shamefully, the post-Paris xenophobic backlash has also hit the US, with 31 governors now declaring that Syrian refugees are not welcome in their states. (CNN) Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called for barring refugees on the basis of their Muslim faith, allowing in only Christians. (MSNBC) Ted Cruz says he'll intriduce legislation ot bar Syrian refugees altogether. (The Hill) Giving credit where it is due, President Obama, speaking at a press conference at the G20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, gave these buffoons an earful: "When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who's fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution—that's shameful. That's not American. That's not who we are. We don't have religious tests to our compassion." (YouTube)
Winning the prize for scariest response is David Bowers, the Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Va., who favorably invoked the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. In an open letter declaring that Syrian refugees should not be resettled in his city, Bowers wrote: "I'm reminded that President Franklin D Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and it appears that threat of harm to America from ISIS now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then." (BBC News)
The US has taken in some 2,200 of the 4 million Syrian refugees. Obama is now calling for the US to take in at least 10,000 more over the next fiscal year. Turkey has more than 2 million, Lebanon more than 1 million, and Jordan has more than 650,000. (Time)