17 April 2016

The Grey Wolves and the Turkmen Brigades


IBT's reporting is a little confused here. The Grey Wolves if allied with the Syrian Turkmen Brigades are not affiliated with ISIS, they're fighting ISIS along with the Assad regime and the Kurdish YPG.

Now is there a scenario in which the Grey Wolves could somehow be in a relationship with ISIS?

Yes, there are some possibilities. But the IBT articles do not present them and represent the general confusion about the nexus between Turkish and Islamist politics and movements, let alone the complexity of the Syrian conflict. Russia would have its own reasons for blaming the Grey Wolves in the Airbus crash, but it doesn't add up.

We could be looking at a faction within the Grey Wolves that's loyal to Erdogan and is acting as liaison between Ankara and ISIS. In this case, ISIS is viewed as 'the enemy of my enemy' and is useful for Erdogan's goal to bring down Assad. This might explain the reports that Assad is purchasing oil from ISIS etc...

The Grey Wolves as a clandestine paramilitary unit would be well suited for this sort of operation. They are ostensibly helping the Turkmen of Northern Syria but they could be doing more. The Turkmen operations might be little more than a cover.

Or, there's another possibility and one far more likely to me. Historically the Grey Wolves have been affiliated with the elements of the Turkish government opposed to Erdogan and the AKP. They've had ties to the CIA and presently seem to have some links with Gulen, the American based cleric who seems to be actively working to subvert Erdogan's hold on government institutions as well as promoting Turanism across Central Asia. Praised by Gulen, the Grey Wolves are part of this larger Pan-Turkish effort.

If they're working with ISIS in the Syrian War it's more likely that it's as a liaison for the CIA. This is where things get a little sinister and devious. While I don't accept the notion that ISIS is a CIA backed and ordered project, there are many who believe this, I do believe their existence and temporary perpetuation serves multiple purposes.

Some elements of ISIS were critical to the US project in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi.

They have been a critical element in combating Assad.

They have destabilised Iraq. Baghdad has been in the process of turning its back on the Americans and embracing Iran and even Russia. This is unacceptable to the United States. The Bush administration negotiated the 2011 exit. Whether they intended to follow through or not can be debated. Obama finished the withdrawal leaving only mercenaries, non-combat troops and the diplomatic corps. However this was viewed as unacceptable considering the massive investment of the Iraq Project. This goes back to 1991. The 2003-2011 phase was just that, a phase in a larger objective. We're now entering a new epoch of the Iraq story.

I believe the United States is unwilling to give up Iraq especially to the Iranian sphere. The Saudis, Qataris and Israel would certainly echo this sentiment.

The US needed a justification to get involved once more. ISIS has provided the justification under the auspices of a wholly new endeavor, not just a new phase of war, but a new war. This of course is not true as ISIS is directly tied in with the previous chapter. Some ISIS members are tied to the old Baathist regime and in some cases were former US allies in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq. There would be no ISIS if there had been no 2003 invasion. It was the chaos and utter destruction wrought by the Americans that created the conditions that led to the rise of ISIS.

This new phase of the Iraq War has also been congruous with a re-boot of the War on Terror in both the US and European consciousness. This time the 'cyber' element has been brought to the fore and the parameters of terrorism are being slowly expanded.

If the Grey Wolves are sponsored by the US, they can act as the conduit for money and arms to the various sponsored groups in Syria. They can move seamlessly between Turkey (and thus Europe) and Syria. They can also access the Caucasus. The Grey Wolves would also be in a position to facilitate ISIS recruits moving from Europe through Turkey on their way to Syria.

The US has definitely been sponsoring al Nusra, a branch of al Qaeda and it's possible (even probable) they were supporting militias affiliated with ISIS. That may no longer be the case and perhaps ended sometime in 2012-2013. That's up for debate. Again there's some confusion here as some members and groups formerly affiliated with the Sons of Iraq have flipped over to ISIS.

The Grey Wolves could also be working to subvert Assad, work elements on the frontier to cause grief for Erdogan and...

If they are indeed responsible for shooting down the Russian fighter jet then we can consider the following...

It weakens Erdogan's standing. He either has to claim that elements affiliated with the Turkish government and military are not under his control in which case he ends up looking weak. Or, he has to claim the shoot-down (which he did) in order to save face but at that point the rapprochement between Erdogan and Putin would come to an end... and it certainly did. The historical enmity returned and an isolated and desperate Erdogan within short order patched things up with the United States, Israel and more recently has moved toward a greater bond with Europe.

It also means that Erdogan might be willing to look the other way as the Grey Wolves are inserted into Ukraine and Southern Russia in order to stir up the Tatars (who are Turkic) and offer support to Ukraine's effort in the Donbass. This activity is most certainly US sponsored.

It's a high stakes game to be sure because no one knew with certainty how Putin would react. A war with Turkey could lead to the invocation of Article V of NATO and lead to a larger war. I don't doubt that's the eventual goal but I'm not sure the United States wants that war quite yet. For obvious reasons it has to be very carefully engineered and I don't think they want the Turkish frontier to be the spark. The European frontier is a more likely locale.

The episode reminds me of the re-boot movie edition of Clancy's 'The Sum of All Fears'. It was totally different than the book but in the movie the Russians gas Grozny, the capital of Chechnya and the president (modeled after Putin) claims responsibility even though he didn't do it. He claimed it in order to save face and not acknowledge that there were elements in the military outside his control.

The Grey Wolves offer Washington an element of plausible deniability. Erdogan can be blamed for dark deeds and machinations when exposed in the media and yet they can operate without a transparent or official connection to Washington. They have always operated as a proxy and the question has always been the same... who do they belong to? Who gives their orders? They are part of the Turkish Deep State which itself is nebulous. One thing is certain the Deep State has always been closely connected to the US Military-Intelligence apparatus. They don't always work in harmony which just adds another element of confusion.

So did the Grey Wolves make a move to sabotage the relationship between Ankara and Moscow? Did they do it under orders?

Is that what happened with the Russian jet being shot down last autumn? I don't know but it's possible.

Russian involvement has certainly irritated Washington and (in part) foiled their plans. That said, it helped to promote the idea that Putin is the aggressor and troublemaker. The Syrian War has gotten out of control and there's a real risk of it spreading into a regional or worldwide conflict. At this point I think the United States is looking to wrap things up. Syria can be partitioned, ISIS defeated militarily and there's a justification for a re-calibration of Iraq.

The real problem is the Kurds. They continue to push for autonomy and an independent Kurdistan. Iraq, Turkey and Iran do not want to see this take place. Turkey is already moving against the Kurds in Syria and Iraq. For some time the Kurds have been quite close to Israel and Tel-Aviv wants to continue utilising their Kurdistan bases for spying on Iran. Kurdistan was the likely base for the infiltration of Iran both in terms of the Stuxnet virus and the assassins who went after Iranian scientists.

I don't know what's going to happen but right now I think the Kurds should be nervous. The tide may quickly turn against them. The PKK has long been considered a terrorist organisation. This was due to their ongoing civil war with Ankara, a US-NATO ally. And yet the same Kurds were heroes and patriots across the border in Iraq. When Erdogan patched things up with Washington and Tel-Aviv he immediately began to move on the Kurdish fighters in Syria and Washington all but looked the other way. It's a bad sign for them.

What's the next chapter? The re-criminalisation of the Kurds? Kurdish and Azeri troubles in Iran? The downfall of Erdogan?

Whatever the scenario you can count on the mainstream media to spin it according to the wishes of the Pentagon and State Department. They've certainly come through on the Panama Papers. They've done everything they can to turn it into an Anti-Putin story.

No comments:

Post a Comment