… and I think it goes without saying that in international affairs, there are no ‘good guys’, there are just ‘bad guys’ and ‘less-bad-guys’. So I was asked today why is Turkey, with its army literally lined up along the border, just sitting there and (also quite literally) watching the Syrian town of Kobani be squeezed to death by the Islamic State? That was when the axiom of there being no ‘good guys’ came to mind.
I think it is worth looking at what is motivating the Turkish government. I see it thus:
Firstly, Turkey was an early enabler of what came to be the Islamic State by virtue of it assisting pretty much anyone who (1) was willing to shoot at the Ba’athist Assad regime (2) was not Kurdish. And whilst President Tayyip Erdogan is not a salafist, he is not just Islamic, he is an Islamist, and has been significantly muted in his remarks about the Islamic State. Conclude from that what you will.
Secondly, the Kurdish YPG in Rojava (Northern Syria, the largely Kurdish bit) has close links with the Marxist PKK (the Kurdish group who has fought against Turkey intermittently for decades and who have proved simply impossible for the Turks to completely crush). This means that from the perspective of a politically Islamic Turkish President like Tayyip Erdogan, who by all accounts has a personality and inclinations probably best described as ‘Putinesque’, he probably sees this as simply one mildly simpatico but unduly exuberant Islamic group who may well be a problem in the future, wiping out a largely secular and hostile-to-the-Turks Kurdish group who are a problem right now. Plus once Kobani falls, the Islamic State can then concentrate on getting rid of Assad, which is really what Tayyip Erdogan’s government in Turkey wants.
So expecting Turkey to sweep in and save Kobani is unrealistic. I expect this is the calculation: if the YPG triumphs and creates a Kurdish controlled Rojava (the Kurdish north of Syria bordering on Turkey), it will encourage Kurdish nationalism in Turkey. Even worse, as Southern Kurdistan (Kurdish Northern Iraq, capital of Erbil) now has an excellent chance of becoming an independent nation (it is already largely autonomous), it is possible Rojava might unify with South Kurdistan, which would really stoke the fires of Kurdish nationalism. And as Turkey does not want a major resurgence of Kurdish insurgency in Turkey (there is currently an agreement with the Kurds there), they are happy to see the Islamic State crush the Syrian Kurdish YPG.
That said, when I ran this past my Kurdish chums who live near Kirkuk, they mostly agreed but noted that as the YPG are Marxist and the PKK are Marxist, they are natural allies (addendum: upon them reading this article, my Kurdish friends said I should have written “hand in glove” as they would be more accurate than mere ‘allies’)… however South Kurdistan is a multi-party democracy (the ruling coalition is the politically secular centrist KDP and leftist PUK, and the main opposition is the aggressively secular centre-right Gorran Movement). However the Kurdish Syrian YPG imposed its control over Rojava against other Syrian Kurdish political groups at gunpoint. I asked my friends “Why do many see the YPG as terrorists?” to which they replied “Because they kind of are”. The general view they shared was that whilst the YPG are admired for their spirited defence of Rojava against the Islamists, and for their cross border rescue of the Yezidi Kurds in Iraq near Mt. Sinjar, in the event the region was ever unified with South Kurdistan, they would probably be a ‘problem’. The way it was described to me was, and I quote: “a Marxist party winning overall power in an election in Erbil is about as likely as a politically Mormon party winning”… a notion which did make me laugh I must confess. But Marxists tend to not just shrug and say “oh well” when that happens.
And thus whilst there is horror in South Kurdistan at the notion of Kobani falling to the Islamic State, there are some in Erbil who actually prefer to play footsie with Turkey and although they wish the people of Kobani well, they will not be heartbroken to see the YPG taken down a peg. And if anyone doubts that the Kurds in Erbil have a deal with the Turkish government, ask yourself this: much to the anguish of the rump Iraqi government in Baghdad, Erbil has been selling its oil independently. Take a look at the map and then figure out who is enabling that to happen.
So if the Turks do rescue Kobani at the last moment, it will only be because they have milked the political advantage sufficiently to have extracted some very sweet deals behind the scenes. My guess is that they will just let the YPG be crushed. But we will know soon enough it seems.
So how was that for some labyrinthine speculation?
A friend of mine who is a writer asked me to put up this short dialogue concerning what is probably one of the most, if not the most, important issues of our time in terms of the flourishing and survival of a free civilisation. Given the nature of the topic the writer has asked not to be named. I don’t normally do this, but the quality of the writing is so good, and the issue so important, that I decided to put this up. I hope readers find it interesting. The article is entitled: The answer to Jihadism is intellectual: a conversation.
The knock on the door was so soft as to be barely audible.
Carl Dinuto – a fortyish, greying, lean-faced professor of philosophy – looked up, wondering if he had heard right.
“Come in!” he called out anyway.
The door opened slowly and a slim young woman entered hesitantly.
“Sorry to interrupt, Doctor, but can you give me a couple of minutes?”
“Perhaps. What about?”
“Um, er, well, I was auditing your lecture on contemporary ethics this morning and was really puzzled by your comments on Islam. You see, I know some Moslem people, one of my best friends at school was Muslim, and she and her family are not at all like the way you said.”
Dinuto glanced at his watch, then pointed to a chair.
“Okay. Since you’re here, you can have a few minutes.”
“Er, thank you.”
Dinuto waited while the girl sat down, watching her as she did so. She was very pretty, with shoulder-length blond hair in a ponytail and bright, greeny-brown eyes, eager and shining with a sort of innocent intelligence.
“First,” said Dinuto; “what’s your name?”
“Holly. It’s Isabel Holland actually. But everybody’s called me Holly since grade school.”
“Why not Izzie or Bella?”
“It’s one of those family things. My Grandma was British, you see, a War bride, and Dad grew up using some of her British expressions. Well, one Fall, I was wearing a dark green tracksuit and was very red-faced from running around outside in the cold. Dad said I looked like a sprig of holly. Then my older brother, who kinda fancies himself as a wit, said, ‘Not the sprog of Holland?’ We all laughed, but Holly stuck.”
“Yeah, it’s British slang for a child, from progeny, I guess.”
Dinuto laughed briefly.
“Nice story,” he said. “And what are you studying, sprog of Holland?”
Holly laughed in her turn.
“When did you start?”
“Your faculty advisor?”
“I know him well. So, what’s your problem, Miss Holland?”
“You said Islam is a fascist political movement bent on world domination. Well, I felt that was untrue, and insulting.”
“I did not say that. I was quoting someone else who had. And I did not say ‘fascist’. I used the word ‘fascistic’ which has a different meaning. The first thing you have to learn at university, young lady, is that if you quote someone, whether in written or verbal form, you must do so accurately.”
“Say, I’m sorry…” Holly began but Dinuto raised a hand for silence.
“To be more precise, Miss Holland, what in fact happened was that a student asked me a question about the views of the Dutch politician Gert Wilders, who has recently been found not guilty of inciting religious hatred in the Netherlands. The student quoted what Wilders had said then asked what I thought of it. I said I knew little about Islam but Wilders’ description seemed accurate enough to me. What is insulting about that?”
“Well, sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but isn’t endorsing Wilders’views same as saying ’em yourself? And you did quote him, you know, kinda approvingly. You see, my friends would say that Islam is a religion, devoted to spreading and obeying the revealed word of God. Isn’t it kinda slanderous to make out like it’s a political movement?”
→ Continue reading: “The answer to jihadism is intellectual – a conversation”
Talk about ingenuity! That thing does not looks very RPG-resistant, so it very wisely has a top mounted camera so it can fire from behind cover!
But guys, it is an improvised armoured ambulance, not a ‘tank’.
Former head of the Marine Corps James Conway says Obama’s idea of relying on local forces with US air power has “not a snowball’s chance in hell“.
However Hemin Hawram, a leading member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, disagrees:
We just need armaments and training; we don’t need boots on the ground from any country to fight this war for us. We want these countries to support our Peshmerga – arm, train, and make them capable. Even for future confrontations against terrorists, there will be no need to support us militarily. In the coming 4-5 years, we hope the Peshmerga will be better equipped and trained, and that certain sanctions will be removed. Why should they not have tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, for example? I hope that they will be a part of an international military unit to fight terrorists in other countries and be part of peacekeeping missions.
Surely that must be a better solution.
And the reason I am inclined to believe him, rather than General Conway, is that the US and its allies were unable to create a viable unitary Iraq that could prevent what happened from happening, because Iraq is simply untenable as a nation. This has been clear for a great many years to anyone who does not have an institutional vested interest. A significant part of the US trained and equipped Iraqi Army simply turned its weapons over to the Islamic State, because they saw no reason to fight for an Iraq that was of zero value to them. The Peshmerga on the other hand has everything to fight for, and unlike foreign troops with western sensibilities and significant cultural ineptitude regarding the realities of the Middle East, the Kurds are far more likely to ‘sort things out on the ground’ if given the tools.
Southern Kurdistan intends to become an independent nation and moreover enabling that to happen by arming them (which will be the consequence) very effectively counters the threat posed by the Islamic State. It is hard to see the downside from the western point of view of enabling a pro-western de facto nation to become an effectively armed de jure nation, one very willing to do the dirty work and sort out Northern Iraq… and frankly probably Northern Syria (Rojava) too, rather than having to deal directly with the more politically problematic Syrian Kurdish PYG.
The only ‘cross’ most westerners care about is the little cross hair in a laser guided bomb aiming unit used to send a 500kg cultural critique in your direction, from our technologically advanced culture to your dark ages one.
– Perry de Havilland
So John Kerry says the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam“. And presumably the USSR had nothing to do with Communism and Nazi Germany had nothing to do with National Socialism and the Vatican has nothing to do with Catholicism.
I have linked before to an article from a Middle Eastern writer laughing at such claims before, but seriously: how can Salafist Islam not be described as Islam? Feel free to presage comments about Salafists by noting there are non-toxic forms of Islam such as Sufi or whatever, but please stop these preposterous claims that the Islamic State is not Islamic.
It is as if John Kerry thinks that by repeating this manifest nonsense that somehow it will become true. Could this be some sort of warped world view in which people must be ‘goodies’ or ‘badies’? Therefore if (say) the Kurdish Peshmerga, who are pretty much accepted as being ‘goodies’ happen to be made up mostly of Muslims, OMG we must therefore pretend the Islamic State is not Islamic as our tiny minds cannot accept a nuanced world view that maybe, just maybe, the Peshmerga might see themselves as Kurds first and who have very little interest in political Salafist Islam?
Or could it be that Salafist Islam is actually the same as Saudi Wahhabi Islam, minus a dynastic Royal government and plus a Caliph? An embarrassing and politically inconvenient little factoid that one.
As of late I have taken to exchanging e-mails with a Kurdish couple who live near Kirkuk and they have no problem describing the Islamic State as, er, Islamic. But they way they see it, describing someone as ‘Islamic’ does not actually tell you very much about a person’s views… whereas saying someone is ‘Salafist’, for example, tells you a great deal.
But unlike the jackasses in the White House with their notions of imaginary Disney-Islam, people in the Middle East understand perfectly that Salafist ideology has a great deal to do with ‘Islam’. And so what? You think that will stop a Kurd who might or might not be a Sunni Muslim, from shooting a Salafist Islamic State soldier deader than dead? Clearly that is not the case.
By all means hyphenate the version if you want, but enough of “the Salafist Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam” crap.
The day after James Foley’s beheading, President Obama paused his Martha’s Vineyard vacation—to express his condolences to the Foley family and inform Americans of the threat posed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Listening to him as a Kurd, I had no reason to doubt his sincerity when he said, “Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.”
What troubled me was the way he qualified ISIS or failed to do. The man who hails from the “happiest” state, Hawaii, declared ISIS—the “angriest” wannabe state in the world — without a “religion.”
That’s like calling Hitler an internationalist or Lenin a capitalist!
Posing as an authority on Islam, he said, “No faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” Speaking for the 21st century, he went on, ISIS doesn’t belong to it.
And then this gem by way of reducing the threat to an understandable sound bite: ISIS is at war with the West “out of expediency,” but it really is at war with its neighbors and offers “nothing but an endless slavery to [its] empty vision.”
I will admit to my immediate reaction: my hand involuntarily went to scratch my head.
– Kani Xulam
It is interesting that media groups like the Kurdish Rûdaw are now able to plonk their news on YouTube with English subtitles, giving us yet another perspective of what is happening beyond the usual suspects.
I find it fascinating. Of course it will be no less slanted depending on the sensibilities of the source, but the notion of being able to watch stuff from a Kurdish news organisation in Erbil would have seemed fantastical just a few years ago. The fact they provide foreign subtitles is very telling.
I found this interesting:
Harun Khan said many young British-born Muslims felt pushed to the fringes of society and that the latest government crackdown could nudge them further into the grasp of radical clerics, instead of drawing them back into mainstream society.
If they want to be in mainstream society in the UK, then their young males need to go down the pub and their young females need to stop wearing a head scarf. But this was my reply:
So if I understand what Harun Khan is saying, it is that monitoring members of the Muslim community for fear of Islamic extremism will cause radicalisation, so the thing to do is to leave it to the imams and community leaders to ensure everything is hunky dory. So a bit like Rotherham then?
And the Guardian’s reply was:
This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs.
Now as I respect private property, unlike the some I could mention, I accept that as the comment was posted on the Guardian’s site, it is up to them what they allow to be published… so no nonsensical bleating about ‘censorship’ please… their house, their rules. I certainly never apologise for deleting comments I think are inappropriate on Samizdata, and neither should the Guardian.
But I do find it interesting that what I think was a pretty innocuous remark gets axed the moment it touches on this particular topic. I sense that a thread is being pulled on the whole morally relativistic carpet that has been draped over the large grunting shitting snuffling pig in the middle of the room, and there is mounting alarm in ‘certain circles’ as they see this carpet coming unravelled. So to me the issue is not “Oh noez! My comment has been cruelly deleted!” but rather “it is interesting to see this particular pattern show where the intolerable sensitivities are”. If that is the weak point, that is where to keep thrusting the dagger.
But then as I said last time I got a comment deleted, that was the sort of mainstream media world view that pushed me into setting up Samizdata in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11.
And so I introduce a new comment category today: Deleted by the Guardian
A well-armed peshmerga and renewed investment in proven intelligence techniques will be critical to combating extremists inside and outside of Iraq. America can stand tall with the Kurds, cripple Iran’s paramilitary capability, and destroy the Islamic State, but must act decisively and creatively – today.
– Robert Caruso
Do an internet search today of any British newspaper for the word “Rotherham” and you will find accounts of how, to quote the Daily Mail’s headline, a “[d]amning report reveals 1,400 girls were abused by sex gangs because social workers and police feared racism claims – so did nothing”.
Nothing new here. There have been similar instances of organised and long-term child abuse by groups of Muslims going unpunished due to fear of claims of racism in Rochdale, Oxford, Derby, Telford and Keighley.
What is changing is the level of fury expressed not just about the rape and enslavement of the victims, nor just about the dereliction of duty on the part of social workers and police, but also about the efforts of the media to downplay that the perpetrators were Muslim. I picked the three links above because all three stories allowed comments. It is remarkable how similar the comments in the left-wing Guardian are to those in the right-wing Mail. Sarcastic, sad, jeering, hesitant or spitting righteous anger; the tone varied but outrage over that particular type of dishonesty was expressed again and again. The usual media procedure is to substitute “Asian” for “Muslim”, or for “Pakistani”, which would give the game away to anyone with a basic knowledge of the Indian subcontinent. I should say that given the relatively low numbers of orientals in Britain it is normal in British casual speech to say “Asian” when one really means “South Asian”, but British Sikhs and Hindus greatly resent the literal racism of the use of the term “Asian” in the context of this series of distinctly Muslim crimes. In some of their stories the BBC has gone further, from blurring relevant details to excising them. These BBC stories simply speak of events “in Rotherham” – even though the independent inquiry that started this firestorm of comment specifically says that fear of being denounced as racist (religious and racial prejudice are deliberately lumped together) was what kept the social workers silent. Instead Rotherham social workers devoted their child protection efforts to taking away their foster-children from a respectable couple on the grounds that they were members of UKIP.
Probably no one who who has ever had a hand in censoring mention of Islam from news reports will ever read this. But on the off-chance that someone relevant does, or in the faint hope that the general idea if not my particular words might reach such a person by indirect means, I would like to ask you, Ms or Mr Media Person, a question. Apart from the question of honest reporting, how do you think the strategy of silence and euphemism is working? Is the British public more or less likely to distinguish between the criminals of Rotherham and the next random “Asian” they see because the press has for so long refused to distinguish? Has it been successfully concealed that a common factor in these abuse rings has been that some Muslim men see non-Muslim girls as “white trash” and unworthy of respect? Not that the politically correct would care about this, but have the brave efforts of some Muslims to confront these warped attitudes been helped or hindered by the evasion?
There is an interesting article on Al Monitor called What exactly is ‘New Turkey’? that seems to explain Erdogan rather well. The money quote:
“A transfer to a majoritarian dictatorial regime from minority hegemony.”
It is an interesting read.