Monday, July 5, 2010

My guess as to why the Turks have turned so hostile to Israel recently and it has little to do with Hamas or Gaza


Peshmerga or Peshmerge (Kurdish: Pêşmerge or پێشمه‌رگه ‌‌) is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters. Literally meaning "those who face death" (Pesh front + marg death) the Peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been in existence since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar empires which had jointly ruled over the area. Peshmerga forces include women in their ranks. Many Kurds will say that all Kurds willing to fight for their rights are Peshmerga. -- Wikipedia.

Kurdish Peshmerga woman fighter.

The BBC reports that Turkey, historically the friendliest of Muslim countries to Israel, is threatening for the first time to break diplomatic relations with Israel.

Here's my guess as to why, and it has little to with Hamas, Gaza or "solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people." It has everything to do with the Kurds, and coming to a realpolitik rapprochement with a nuclear Iran.

The Turks (both secular and Sunni) have long been upset about the American protectorate over Iraqi Kurdistan. So so are the Iraqi muslims -- Sunni and Shia -- and the Iranians (also Shia). While the Americans were there (since the imposition of the 1991 "No Fly Zone" and especially since OIF1 in 2003) there was nothing any of the neighbors could do about it. The Kurds on the other hand have taken every opportunity to build up their political and military position.

But now the Americans are leaving. The Kurds know they will have to be the baddest MFers on the block to hold onto their gains after the Americans are gone. They know that the Turks, Iran and Iraq have carved up Kurdistan between them in the past and will be happy to do so again. Of course it doesn't hurt their appetites for conquest that most of the oil within Saddam-era Iraq was to be found within the Kurdish area (and still is).

The Kurds for their part are some of the toughest guerrilla fighters in the world and their mountainous territory provides ideal sanctuary. I've written about their fighters, the Peshmerga before, telling my readers of the Kurd proverb:
"Mirina ser piyan baştire li jiyana ser çukan."


Literal Translation: "Death on your feet is better than life on your knees."



Now, after the Americans have gone the Kurds know they can defend themselves against the Iraqis to their south and the Iranians to their south and east. What they would have difficulty dealing with, especially in the lowlands (where most of the oil is), is the overwhelming force of Turkish armor. The Türk Kara Kuvvetleri is one of the largest standing armies in the world and the second largest army of NATO.

At present, the primary main battle tanks of the Turkish Army are the Leopard 2A4 and the M60T. There are also around 400 Leopard 1 and 750 M60 Patton variants in service (excluding the M60T which were upgraded with the 120 mm MG253 guns), but the Turkish Army retains a large number of older vehicles. More than 2,800 M48 Pattons are still in service (upgraded with the 105 mm M68 guns) though only around 1,300 of these are stored as reserve MBTs, while the rest are mostly transformed into other types of military vehicles (such as cranes, MBT recovery vehicles and logistical support vehicles) or used as spare parts hulks. -- Wikipedia.




In addition, Turkey plans to build a total of 1,000 new MİTÜP Altay MBTs, in four separate batches of 250 units, with the MİTÜP Turkish National Tank Project. The tanks will be produced by the Turkish firm Otokar, and share some of the systems that are used in the K2 Black Panther main battle tank of South Korea.

You can find more about the Altay here, but suffice to say that it will be at least as tough a platform as the M1A1 Abrams.

Then there's the Turkish Air Force, the Türk Hava Kuvvetleri. It is one of the oldest air forces in the world, and with a current inventory of more than 930 aircraft, it ranks 3rd in NATO in terms of fleet size, behind the USAF and RAF. Supported by its own long-range in-flight refueling capability, the fighter jets of the Turkish Air Force can participate in international operations and exercises on all continents of the world. They have beaucoup F-16s and have signed a memorandum of understanding with the US for 116 F35As.

If they decide to roll east into Kurdistan in a serious way to divvy up Kurdish land and Kurdish oil between themselves and the Iranians, there will be damn little the Kurds will be able to do about it.

Except. . .

Yep, you guessed it.

Israel.

There is only one thing that can stop Turkish tanks and Turkish aircraft and that's sophisticated anti-armor and anti-air weapons of the type that Israel makes. But, you might say, the Kurds are largely Muslim, don't they also hate the "Infidel Jews"?

Well, no, and for reasons that go waaay back.

There is an ancient tradition that relates the Kurdistani Jews as the descendants of the ten tribes from the time of the exile of the Assyrians in the 6th century BCE. The Kurdistani Jews speak the eastern dialect of the Neo-Aramaic language, akin to the language of the Babylonian Talmud.

According to the Bible, after the year 722 BC Jews settled in Mesopotamia and Media, today's Kurdistan area, the settlement of the spread of Judaism and Jews. The religious texts report that in the late 8th century BC, the Assyrian invaders of the Northern Kingdom of Israel deported the Jews to "Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes" (II Kings 17:6). The Medes were ancestors of the Kurds. The Medes' kings allowed the Jews to return and live in peace in Jerusalem, their sacred city.

The great Kurdish warrior Saladin Ayyubi's doctor Rambam was a Jew. For centuries after Saladin, the Kurds and Jews lived peacefully with each other, and before the breakup of the Ottoman empire, there was a large Jewish population in Mosul, in Iraq. . .

A team of German, Indian and Israeli specialists published the results of their research that showed that the Jews were distant ethnic relatives of the Kurds. The Jews and Kurds according to the research teams have common ancestors who resided in the area between the Kurdish areas of Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan.

Immigration from Kurdistan to Israel began in the 16th century, with the first immigrants from Kurdistan settling in Safed. Kurdish immigrants later on in the 20th century arrived in the 1920s and 1930s, and by the year 1948 there were some 8000 Kurds in Israel. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, crowds of people from all four parts of Kurdistan moved to Israel. Today, the Kurdish Jewish population in Israel is over 150,000; the largest concentration of Kurdish people can be found around Jerusalem.

In Israel, generally, the Kurdish immigrants have kept alive the cultural heritage of Jewish Kurdistan through their distinctive cuisine, music, and traditions. A new book that came out recently by the Israeli scholar Mordechai Zaken describes the relationship between the Jews of Kurdistan and their Muslim neighbours and masters (tribal chieftains or aghas)in southern Kurdistan during the last few centuries. -- Wikipedia.


So most Kurdish Jews emigrated to Israel after 1948, but some (and some Christians) remained behind in Kurdistan and are still there to this day.

That's the history. The last two decades of the history of Kurdistan include numerous unofficial contacts between the Kurdish freedom fighters and the Israelis. In 2004 Seymour Hersh wrote a story in the New Yorker called "Plan B."

In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan. Several officials depicted Sharon’s decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow. . .

Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria. Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operative include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports. ... The former Israeli intelligence officer acknowledged that since late last year Israel has been training Kurdish commando units to operate in the same manner and with the same effectiveness as Israel’s most secretive commando units, the Mistaravim. The initial goal of the Israeli assistance to the Kurds, the former officer said, was to allow them to do what American commando units had been unable to do — penetrate, gather intelligence on, and then kill off the leadership of the Shiite and Sunni insurgencies in Iraq.


Of course this was before the surge when we were just floundering around, before Petraeus and McChrystal started killing off the AQI leadership in big, bloody batches. In 2006, the "Israelis-training-Kurds" story surfaced again.

A long-time friend of mine who has experience in the region tells me that there are "credible rumors" that such contacts continue to this day, with Israeli "contractors" training Peshmerga within Kurdistan in small bunches and, in larger numbers but just as discreetly, within Israel itself.

The Peshmerga don't need instruction in guerrilla war. They are past masters at that. What they are receiving training in is all the panoply of modern warfare and special operations -- secure commo, electronics, and, especially, state-of-the-art anti-armor and anti-air weapons. When the time comes, he thinks, Israel will see that the Peshmerga get everything they need to turn huge batches of Turkish armor and air assets into twisted, burning junk.

The Turks, who cannot have failed to notice this training, are some kind of pissed. But they are also aware of two things they do not have that their neighbors in the Middle East do -- oil and, in Iran's case, soon to be nukes. There has never been much love lost between the Sunni Turks and the Shia Persians. The prospect of an Iranian bomb scares the Turks as much as the Israelis and the Saudis. Can the Turks procure a nuclear bomb program of their own? Sure, with help. But that will take time. For now, they are seeking common ground with the Iranians. Just as the Israelis are becoming friendlier with the Kurds.

The pointed question my friend asked me was, "If both the Kurds and the Israelis find themselves with their backs to the wall in a pending war of extinction, will the Israelis 'nuclearize' Kurdistan as a counter-weight?" He didn't know the answer to that question and neither do I. But I do know that both the Kurds and the Israelis do not and cannot count on the present regime in the White House to shield them from the existential threats they face.

They know are on their own.

15 comments:

sofa said...

Radars in Kurdistan?
EW gear? Comm-Intel gear?

Would be very helpful to anyone monitoring Iran.

Anonymous said...

I doubt if there is any MBT out there that can take on a well trained crew in a fully operational M1A1 Abrams, except of course an M1A2 Abrams SEP tank. For testimonials check the surplus scrap metal that wasn't hit by the Air Force between the Kuwait border and Baghdad.

Witchwood said...

It probably has something to do with the continuing erosion of secular Kemalism as well. Islam is flowing into the breaches.

Kemal Ataturk was the best thing that ever happened to Turkey, but unfortunately the state he set up is disintegrating.

Anonymous said...

...and they should be on their own. As far as I know we have no mutual defense treaty with Israel. I hope that you do not condone our mucking around in other countries affairs, as that is part of what got us to the sad state this country is in. Just because Obama is *perceived* to not strongly support Israel (I don't buy it) does not mean that those opposed to Obama must.

Any Fedgov with the military power to continuously arm, occupy, or operate in dozens (really over 100+) countries will also have the power and motivation to attempt to control it's own subjects with similar force.

Israel and the Kurds can and should have to operate on their own.

Snaggle-Tooth Jones said...

How does ANY of this matter to us?

Is the focus here on America and how to preserve her liberties, or not?

Hoping the next generation of patriots learns to appreciate J.Q. Adams' dictum that America does not go forth in search of monsters to destroy.

Our threatre is here. No where else.

Anonymous said...

As in Turkey, the current demographic trend underlies the disintegration of our own country.

Very interesting article, Mike!

-S
III

Gaige said...

I started cackling hysterically when I realized the strategic implications of what you're saying here. If the Israelis can supply them not only with the AA and AT weapons, but also the means to maintain and even produce some of the gear themselves (get them the dies and tools and such), the Kurdistan could stand up to all regional enemies more or less indefinitely.

Hell, they'd even give Russia a run for their money. The Bear was barely able to scrape together the functional units to conquer half of Georgia back in '09.

Anonymous said...

Israel and the Kurds can and should have to operate on their own.--Anon

By this line of reasoning, a Kurdish/Israeli alliance would also be illegitimate. What nonsense!

Having two politically stable and militarily capable allies in the Middle East is a fine asset with which to protect US regional interests.

Since neither Iraq nor Afghanistan possess these attributes, cultivating a strong military and diplomatic relationship with Israel and Kurdistan is good foreign policy.

MALTHUS

Dedicated_Dad said...

IS there no point of sanity between the rampant meddling we've done for nearly a century and total isolationism?

Like it or not, there *ARE* strategic justifications for our ability to project force anywhere on the planet. If you're a big target, you'd better carry some big firepower.

And yes -- there *ARE* good reasons for us to "meddle" in the affairs of other countries to some extent - though (again) much less than we have been.

The bottom line is really rather clear: Does whatever we're contemplating enhance our own security? If so, then I believe it's justified. If not, well -- sorry 'bout your luck, Mr. Banana-Republic!

By far, the unparalleled tragedy is the fact that we expended untold trillions of dollars and countless lives in a 60+ year war against communism, only to hand it the keys to our seats of power here at home.

God help us -- and God Save Our Republic!

Anonymous said...

"Having two politically stable and militarily capable allies in the Middle East is a fine asset with which to protect US regional interests."

Yes, it would be. However, the Kurds have a long memory...though one doesn't need that to remember how this nation stood by with its thumb up it rear end while Saddam butchered the Kurds in 1991 - after we had encouraged them to revolt.

The Kurds will be none-too-quick to trust this country anytime soon, and I hardly blame them. Add to that Fauxbama's penchant for throwing people and countries under the bus for the silliest and flimsiest reasons, and any Kurdish leader would have to be certifiably nuts to trust us.

Nonetheless, I hope that we can have good relations with the Kurdish people - they are tough hombres, but retain the kindness to strangers that used to be part and parcel of the culture in that part of the world. We could (and do) have far worse "friends" in the world, and despite the fact that this blog is mostly about this nation and its future, it behooves all freedom-loving people to have as many friends in as many parts of the world as possible. They may someday be part of a plan to eliminate an excuse (a nuclear Iran) for reducing our liberties even further.

Loren said...

I had thoughts along these lines. The Kurds and the Israelis aren't the only ones facing down problems. India, Taiwan, Japan, and S. Korea will have to deal with a dragon. They however have a good bit more ability in this area.

Physical computing platforms are hitting the point where computers were in the early '80s. They provide a potential to provide platforms for everything from MANPADS to EW equipment. Problem is, the U.S. gov won't appreciate the development of these in the states. However, if you had a country where everyone was interested enough in the development, a few engineers on a "humanitarian mission" could get quite a bit of testing done, and whoever sees their balloon go up will be able to provide field experience with these gadgets.

Christian Patriot III said...

What does Israel have to do with us, some of you ask?

Ever hear of the canary in the coal mine? You betcha. The view our government takes on Israel parallels its view on Judeo-Christian values. When we have God fearing leaders, we have a strong relationship with Israel as the prophetic writings of the Bible are more likely to be heeded if not at least cautiously regarded as sound. When you have an administration that is contrary to Christian theology, the first thing to go is a relationship with Israel because it is strongly rooted in our history and belief in Scripture. If there is no value in the Bible, there is no reason to favor Israel in any degree.

So watching how our leaders treat Israel is a clear indicator of where their minds are and what we can expect them to honor or not. Right now, it's pretty damn grim and lends tremendous credibility to the varied notions that our leadership is maintaining only the thinest veil over its open hostility towards our Christian heritage and God given rights to self defense and liberty.

Strategically, Israel is of vast importance. Simply put, whenever we manage to get our own country back from the hands of tyrannical collectivists, we have 2 some-odd billion Muslims highly interested in seeing us suck scimitar. In the middle east, Israel is the only true ally we have against a blood thirsty global jihad.

Seriously folks - look past the end your rifle from time to time. I thoroughly appreciate, support and back your desire to be left the hell alone and share it deeply... but the facts are that there are a lot of nut jobs out there who just won't let it be so. We need to have some far sight on global issues or we'll never a) fully understand our own predicament or b) be prepared to secure our liberties beyond simply restoring our constitution.

I think we for sure can do a lot less nation building and picking of winners and losers abroad but there are some wars abroad that will always be worth fighting over there rather than here. Keeping a global Islamic caliphate in check is one of those wars.

at the edge said...

To be sure, you have here an amazing thesis. My only question is, if the Turks think Israel is helping the Kurds, would it not be smarter to stay on Israel's better side, or at least feign it, and, being that military materiel is being bought from Israel, buy the stuff and learn how to neutralize it?

Anonymous said...

This was a very interesting post. Thanks.

Rabid Ant said...

Precisely because so few colonists were resisting the King, the involvement of the French was central to the achievement of American independence. Thank Ben Franklin for that, and also the fact that France and England were at war. The US was born, in a way, in a "proxy war."
Thanks for posting history, because we all need to be very mindful of past and precedent.