Tag Archives: terrorism

The PKK and Russia

By Oved Lobel on 18 November 2019

PKK at a terrorist training camp in the Asad regime-held Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, 1991 [source]

My friend Oved Lobel, a researcher focused on Russia’s role in the Middle East (among other things), found several interviews the Russian media did with Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leaders, one with the leader himself Abdullah Ocalan, talking about, inter alia, the group’s relationship with Moscow. He very helpfully translated them and with his permission they are published below.

The broad outline of the PKK’s relationship with the Soviet Union—and then the Russian Federation—is fairly clear. After the PKK was founded in Turkey in the late 1970s by Ocalan, it was evicted from the country during the 1980 military coup. The PKK moved to Syria, where Ocalan was already based, having fled Turkey in June 1979. From there, the PKK moved into the Bekaa area of Lebanon, at that time controlled by the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Asad, and the Soviets acted through Asad, as they so often did in dealing with terrorist groups, to build the PKK into a fighting force that was then unleashed in 1984 on Turkey, a frontline NATO state in the Cold War. Continue reading

The First Speech of Islamic State Spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 7 November 2019

Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) [right] appearing in an Islamic State video alongside Tarkhan Batirashvili (Abu Umar al-Shishani, 3 June 2017, displaying a scene from 2014 when IS demolished the borders between Iraq and Syria. Falaha was killed in August 2016. It is common for IS to hold back pictures and footage of its leaders for time-spans that can reach over a decade.

Taha Falaha was the effective deputy of the Islamic State (IS) when he was killed on 30 August 2016, by which time he was also overseeing the foreign attacks campaign by IS and serving as governor of the IS-held areas in Syria. Likely, however, Falaha, is best-known internationally by his kunya, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, and for his role as IS’s official spokesman, particularly his speech in September 2014 inciting Muslims in the West to commit terrorist attacks against their native countries. Falaha had been recruited in Aleppo in 2002 by IS’s founder, Ahmad al-Khalayleh (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi) and steadily advanced through IS’s media department, eventually being announced as the official spokesman with his first speech, released on 1 August 2011. An English-language transcript of that first speech, an hour-long audio message entitled, al-Dawlat al-Islam Baqiya (“The Islamic State Remains” or “The Islamic State Endures”), was released by “Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum Language and Translation Department” and was posted to their forum on 4 March 2012. The transcript is reproduced below with some editions from the Arabic transcript and some important parts highlighted in bold. Continue reading

Obama Made America’s Collapse in the Middle East Inevitable

A version of this article was published at The Arab Weekly

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 12 October 2019

Turkish Armed Forces heading towards the border with Syria, 8 October 2019 // BULENT KILIC / AFP

The beginning of Turkey’s third incursion into Syria on Wednesday, this time dubbed Operation PEACE SPRING and aimed at the areas east of the Euphrates River, is the culmination of an American policy started under Barack Obama that has been continued by Donald Trump. That it is inevitable makes it no less tragic for the innocents caught up in this mess. It does mean that the emotive posturing on social media, and attempts by Obama era officials to cast the blame for the Syria catastrophe onto Trump, are more-than-usually grotesque. Continue reading

Last Insurgent Bastion in Syria Shows Signs of Collapse

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 25 August 2019

A version of this article was published at The Arab Weekly

Devastation in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib, Syria, 3 August 2019 (AFP)

Bashar al-Assad’s regime, supported by Russia and (in a more deniable form) Iran, began an offensive against the last insurgent-held enclave in Syria, Idlib, in the last days of April. Up until a month ago, this looked like an embarrassing fiasco: with a minimal increase in Turkish support to its rebel proxies, the pro-Assad forces had been able to gain about one-percent of the territory in the southern part of “Greater Idlib”. In the last fortnight, however, the pro-Assad coalition has made important breakthroughs that could prove decisive. Continue reading

British Strategy in the Gulf as Iranian Aggression Escalates

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) and Rob Clark (@RobertClark87) on 26 July 2019

A speedboat and a helicopter of the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy move around a British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, 21 July 2019. (Hasan Shirvani/Mizan News Agency via AP)

The series of provocations in the Gulf by the Islamic Republic of Iran, beginning with the sabotage of four vessels in mid-May, culminated last Friday in the illegal seizure by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) of the British-flagged and operated Stena Impero oil tanker, followed shortly thereafter by the seizure of the Liberian-flagged, British operated MV Mesdar in the Strait of Hormuz. Only the Mesdar has been released. This episode has served to demonstrate the serious defence issues confronting Boris Johnson, the incoming United Kingdom (UK) Prime Minister, which have to be dealt with immediately and cannot be pushed off into the future when the domestic turbulence over Brexit has abated. Continue reading

Turkey Balancing Between America and Russia

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 22 July 2019

U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meeting during the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, 29 June 2019 [image source]

The delivery of the first parts of the Russian S-400 anti-missile missile system to Turkey on 12 July has brought the crisis in the Turkish-American relations to a head. This long-simmering problem is intertwined with America’s and Turkey’s policies in Syria, specifically where the latter is responsive to the former, which has resulted in as serious rift within NATO and exposed Turkey to pressure from the Russian government. Continue reading