Monday, December 21, 2015

US calls on Turkey to take all precautions to protect civilians in SEast

DPB # 211
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

My Qs and As w Spox Kirby
QUESTION: On Turkey-Russia question over Syria, it looks like the President Putin continues to issue threats to Turkey, latest is Russia banned Turkish jets within Syrian airspace. What’s your view? It has been a month since the Turks shot down the Russian jets. Do you think steps need to be taken or de-escalation? Do you have any comments?
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen those latest remarks. What I would tell you is our position hasn’t changed since the shoot-down that we want to see the tensions reduced, obviously. And we – while certainly – like I said, we respect Turkey’s right to protect its airspace. We want to see the tensions there nonetheless brought down between Turkey and Russia and would, as we said before, urge both sides to work on de-confliction measures.
QUESTION: On the northern Syria again, these 98 kilometers that has been talk about between the Jarabulus and the Afrin, do you – it looks like the Russians are now helping Syrian Kurds. There are reports that Syrian Kurds may take – start launch assault on ISIS place, or the other Syrian opposition groups. Do you have any update on that particular area?
MR KIRBY: No. I would point you to Russian officials to talk to what they’re doing militarily inside Syria. As I said earlier, we continue to see the bulk of their military activity be against opposition groups and not against ISIL. But in terms of whatever support they claim they’re giving to Syrian Kurds, I think they would have to speak to that.
QUESTION: Do you have any issue with Syrian Kurds taking over that particular area instead of other Syrian opposition groups?

MR KIRBY: Instead of other Syrian opposition groups?
QUESTION: Yes, or Turkey’s --
MR KIRBY: For us, the cooperation that we are giving to Syrian groups, be they Turkoman, Christian, Arab, or Kurds, is about continuing to degrade and destroy ISIL. It’s ISIL’s control over areas that we’re focused on. And we want Syria – this is why there’s a political process going on – we want all of Syria – a unified, whole Syria – to be governed by a legitimate and a responsive and responsible government in Damascus. And that’s not the case right now. That’s why the Secretary is so focused on this diplomatic front. But our focus in terms of territory governance, it’s to take it away from ISIL and then work politically to get a government in Damascus that can adequately, sufficiently govern it for all Syrians. Okay?
QUESTION: So Syrian Kurds can take over that place? You wouldn’t have any issue with that?
MR KIRBY: I didn’t say that at all, sir. I said our focus is on taking away the area and the territory that ISIL has inside Syria so that, as the political process moves forward, you have a government in Damascus that can govern and legislate for a whole, unified Syria in Damascus.

QUESTION: On Turkey this time. Turkey’s own southeast Kurdish region have been – have seen increasing – the situation is escalating within Turkey’s own southeast region, with the Kurdish region, such as Cizre or other places under the curfew. Do you have – or do you monitor the situation?
MR KIRBY: The curfew?
QUESTION: Yes. Several towns under curfew right now.
MR KIRBY: Yeah. We’ve seen those reports. What I would say is we hope to see a renewed commitment to the political process by the Turkish Government and the PKK to bring about a just and sustainable peace for all Turkish citizens. While we understand Turkey needs to take security measures, it should also take all feasible precautions to protect civilians and to act consistently with its legal obligations. And I’d refer you to Turkish authorities for more details about it.
QUESTION: And the press freedom issue in Turkey, it looks like over three dozen or about three dozen journalists are still detained. And it looks like especially in Kurdish areas, many of the Kurdish journalists recently have been detained. The – one of the Vice reporters have been in jail over, I think, about three months, over three months. Editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily and other newspapers’ journalists are still in jail. Have you had a chance to talk to Turkish Government recently? Are you --
MR KIRBY: We routinely – we routinely express our concerns about freedom of expression and protection of journalism in Turkey, as I’ve said many, many times. We look to the Government of Turkey to ensure that law enforcement and judicial authorities act in accordance with international legal standards, including full respect for due process and equal treatment under the law.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Biden’s office refutes Turkish PM Davutoglu’s refutal:

Biden’s office refutes Turkish PM Davutoglu’s refutal:

Vice President Biden’s office issued a statement regarding call with Prime Minister Davutoglu of Turkey on December 14th and in that, stated:

1) Biden-Davutoglu Call:
The Vice President spoke again today with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu regarding Turkey’s troop deployments in northern Iraq. The Vice President welcomed reports of the withdrawal of Turkish troops out of Camp Bashiqa as an important step to de-escalate recent tensions. The Vice President reiterated that any foreign military presence in Iraq must be with the full consent of the Iraq government.’’

2) Biden - Al-Abadi phone all
On December 16, Biden’s office issued another readout, this time his call with Iraq’s PM Al-Abadi. In that, Biden said: “The Vice President spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi yesterday following his December 14 call with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The Vice President noted the recent deployment of Turkish forces into northern Iraq had occurred without the prior consent of the Iraqi government. Both leaders welcomed initial indications of the withdrawal of some Turkish forces and agreed this should continue, reiterating that any foreign forces can only be present in Iraq with the coordination and permission of the Iraqi government.”

3) Obama Urged Erdogan in a phone call
After this phone call, President Obama also talked President Erdogan and his office issued a statement on Friday. In that, Obama “urged” Erdogan to pull back from N.Iraq:
“The President urged President Erdogan to take additional steps to deescalate tensions with Iraq, including by continuing to withdraw Turkish military forces, and reinforced the need for Turkey to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.”

4) PM Davutoglu refutes Biden remarks to Abadi
Davutoglu, on the way back from Brussels, spoke to Turkish journalists yesterday, remarks published today and said “Biden didn’t urge us to pull back troops from Iraq.” Davutoglu, as reported on Hurriyet Daily News: Another issue on the agenda is the presence of the Turkish military at a base near Mosul, publicized earlier this week, which created tension between Turkey and Iraq. Davuto─člu has spoken with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden twice on the issue, but he denied that Biden had urged Turkey to withdraw troops from Iraq.

“I didn’t get such a statement from Biden. I spoke twice with Biden and he never said such a thing. He advised us to carry out this issue through consensus with Iraq. In fact we all want the same thing anyway,” Davutolu said. Turkey’s security starts from its borders with Iraq and Syria, but because neither country can control their borders Turkey is obliged to step in, Davuto─člu said. “I wish they could control their borders and our troops were not obliged to go there,” he added.

The prime minister also stated that Ankara and Iraq “agreed in principle” on the Turkish deployment on Iraqi soil to train Iraqi citizens and volunteers, which is why he did not seek Iraqi consent for the most recent deployment.”

5) Biden’s Office Refutes Davutoglu’s Refutal
Saturday morning I reached out VP Biden’s office and asked about PM Davutoglu’s latest remarks and whether they could shed light on these different accounts from US and Turkish side.

Vice President Joe Biden’s aide, defended their originial readout in an email sent from White House. White House official sent this short refutal for PM Davutoglu and this time openly told Turkey redeploy its forces at Camp Bashiqa: “the readout is accurate. The Vice President urged Turkey to redeploy forces at Camp Bashiqa that were not previously coordinated or approved by the Iraqi government.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

US Welcomes Turkey-Israel Agreement to Improve Relations

Today, senior White House official, when asked about reports that Turkey and Israel agreed initial understanding to improve relations, sent this:

"We have seen reports of a potential agreement between Israel and Turkey to restore diplomatic relations.  We would welcome this step in improving relations between two of our key allies in the region, particularly given our common interests and the challenges we face.  We refer you to Israel and Turkey for further details."

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

US: We demonstrated our ability to rapidly send U.S. assets to Turkey

Laura Seal, DoD Spokesperson sent a statement after asked about US decision to withdraw a dozen F15s from Incirlik base, Adana, Turkey. 

These planes arrived Turkey only little more than a month ago. Seal's statement follows, highlights belong to me: 

''After completing temporary deployments to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, 12 F-15s are redeploying to RAF Lakenheath starting today, and completing by the end of the week.

The F-15s deployed to Incirlik in November. The F-15Cs arrived Nov. 6 and the F-15Es Nov. 12.

Six F-15Cs deployed in response to a request from the Turkish Government, demonstrating our ability to rapidly send U.S. assets to Turkey in support of an air defense mission.

During the deployment, we finalized a bilateral agreement with Turkey outlining procedures for combat air patrol missions in Turkish airspace. This enduring agreement provides a framework for our aircraft to support air defense missions in Turkey if/when called upon, either with these air frames or others in the future.

Six F-15Es joined our manned and remotely piloted aircraft already conducting counter-ISIL missions from Incirlik alongside Turkish F-16s.

Counter-ISIL operations from Incirlik and other operating locations continue. Our air campaign draws upon a variety of aircraft from different operating locations, and the arrival and departure of deployed aircraft is accounted for in our planning process.  There are 12 A-10s as well as a number of Remotely Piloted Aircraft conducting counter-ISIL missions from Incirlik along with Turkish F-16s. We also expect to see an increase in Coalition aircraft operating from Incirlik in the coming months.''


Laura Seal
DoD Spokesperson, Defense Press Office

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Why US waited too long to say ISIS oil doesnt go thru Turkey

US administration officials, including Sec John Kerry, many times in 2013 and 2014 talked about how ISIS uses its border with Turkey to smuggle its oil. This revenue source described as one of the significant sources to finance ISIS operations.

This rhetoric has been suddenly changed since last Friday, when the US administration's special envoy Amos Hoschstein, who particularly deals with ISIS energy revenues issue, stated on the record: ''there is not significant volume of ISIS oil being smuggled into Turkey.''   

On the same day a senior State Department official gave a long briefing on the same subject and rejected the notion that ISIS is making a lot of money by smuggling oil to Turkey. When I asked ''how about 2013 and 2014,'' official also talked along the same line that ISIS smuggling to Turkey was not a big sector then:


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL (Friday, State Dept., Dec 4th): So first, on ’13, ’14 – I don’t have information of – any credible information at all of Turkish Government and ISIL coordinated smuggling operations. And look, if you look to the history of this area pre-conflict, during the Assad, Sr., Hafez al-Assad, you will see that there was some smuggling happening because of the arbitrage. You have – and you have this black market emerge when one side of a border has subsidized prices and the other one has less subsidized prices, and you therefore have a liter of petrol being sold at 50 cents here and $2 on the other side. You just created a black market, right? Just by the fact that those two – those two facts.
So was – is there smuggling that happens that has gone on for over a hundred years on this? Yes. My argument is that there is no – there hasn’t been, that I know of, a government-inspired smuggling operation from ISIL control at any given point. Overall, I will say that my discussions with my Turkish counterparts have been good on this issue. We have shared information. We are working to avoid it, and that’s why we’re seeing this decrease in the smuggling. It’s a very long border. So that’s as far as the 2013, 2014.
As far as the Abu Sayyaf information, I have – I’ve seen the areas of the information that are relevant to what I do for a living, which is going after the energy pieces, and in what I’ve – all I can tell you is that from what I’ve seen, I have not seen any of the rumors that are reported in some areas on the internet.


On Monday, this time I tried to learn from the State Department Spokesperson John Kirby why it took 2 years for the US Government to say Turkish border is not a significant road for smuggling oil (At the end, I give my own theory about this):


My Qs & As w Kirby on ISIS smuggling oil to Turkey
QUESTION:  I have one more.  There was a briefing last Friday about the ISIL smuggling oil situation, and the official stated that there isn’t much or significant volume of the oil smuggled to Turkey and this is also the case for 2013 and ’14, whereas we have many statements, including from Secretary Kerry and other officials during these years suggesting that there is oil and that finances ISIL.  So there’s a discussion whether seems to be the information or the statements in those years kind of not exactly align with last week’s briefing.
MR KIRBY:  I’m not quite sure I completely understand your question, but I think I got it.  So let me take a crack, and then if I don’t get it, you tell me.
QUESTION:  Okay, thank you.
MR KIRBY:  We know that oil smuggling remains a source of revenue for ISIL, no doubt about it.  And we know that some of those smuggling routes run across that border with Turkey.  That’s just a fact, and the Turks have talked about that too.  Which is one of the reasons why we just talked about strikes that DOD spoke to yesterday against oil heads, I mean – which is why you start to see some of these strikes against the oil infrastructure that ISIL has or is trying to exploit.  We know it’s a source of revenue from them.  There’s other sources of revenue as well.  I’ve talked about extortion, I’ve talked about infrastructure.  I’ve talked about theft.  And we’ve talked about the fact that they get resources from outside.  But oil is one of them.
Now, if you’re asking about the accusations that the Turkish Government is profiting off of ISIL oil, I think we dealt with that last week pretty definitively; and the answer is no, we’ve seen absolutely no indication of that.  And we, I think, rebutted that claim quite effectively, and I have nothing new to add.  We’ve not seen any collusion by the Turkish Government with ISIL for – in terms of oil smuggling or consumption, none at all.  It’s just a baseless falsehood that was propagated about the Turkish Government.
But we all recognize that one of the ways they try to get money is through smuggling.  And we’re all working very hard – one of the reasons, back to the answer I gave the gentleman back there.  One of the reasons we’re all working very hard to see if we can’t seal off that section of border to limit their ability to gain revenue from that – from oil smuggling.

QUESTION:  John, on --

QUESTION:  Do you think this briefing or this statement that this smuggling of oil business between the ISIS and Turkey is not really significant, came too late, because this been a point of wide discussions in Turkey for two years, that whether these incoming different statements from U.S. side suggesting that there is smuggling of oil?  So question is:  Was it too late to make this clear, whereas the topic has been discussed for two years now?
MR KIRBY:  I think we were responding to false allegations put out in particular by the Russian side.  So I don’t know about – I don’t know how to answer your question whether it was too late or not; it was in response to a complete fabricated falsehood.
Again, Turkey is a vital ally, a NATO ally, and a vital partner in this fight, and we all recognize the challenges along that stretch of border and we’re working hard to shut it down.  I don’t think anything was too late.  I mean, I’ve been talking about, as part of my role here and in another building, about the sources of revenue that ISIL gets.  We’ve been talking about this for more than a year.  And it’s not been any secret that we know that part of the way they finance themselves is through smuggling oil, through oil infrastructure


My theory: US Government, even though it was aware that there was not a significant oil smuggling taking place from ISIS held territory to Turkey, its officials used that talking point to put further pressure on the Ankara government to do more at borders with Syria. Recall: those years Turkish government was not doing much to stop anyone wanting to go to Syria, including foreign jihadists wished to join Al Qaida and ISIS ranks.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

US Rejects Russian Oil Smuggling Accusations

US DoD spokesperson Laura Seal rejected Russian Defense Ministry Officials accusations that Turkish Administration is smuggling oil with ISIS, from ISIS held territories in Syria. 

Seal, in an exclusive email, stated this: 
''We reject the premise that the Turkish government is in league with ISIL to smuggle oil.  We have seen no evidence to support such an accusation.

Moreover, Turkey is taking steps to improve the security of its border with Syria, working with international partners. One goal of this effort is to cut off ISIL smuggling.

We view our NATO Ally Turkey as a key partner in the coalition to counter ISIL.   As we are doing with all of our partners and as the President noted yesterday in Paris, we continue to discuss with Turkey what more they could do within the counter-ISIL effort and how we can better cooperate to ensure ISIL's defeat.

As President Obama has said, we support Turkey's right to defend its airspace and territory.  President Obama has also emphasized the importance of Turkey and Russia working together to de-escalate their confrontation and ensure such an unfortunate incident is not repeated.''