The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age
    acanuck's picture

    Cleric is pawn in Trump-Putin-Erdogan power game

    Lots of people will feel lots of pain once the Trump administration takes power. Perhaps the first casualty will be Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric now in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

    A moderate Islamist leading a popular movement, Gülen was once allied with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They split over accusations of government corruption. Since then, Gülenism has been branded a terrorist organization, Gülen followers were accused of staging July’s failed military coup, and hundreds of thousands have been rounded up, fired or arrested. Gülen denies any involvement, but Erdogan demands he be extradited to face trial in Turkey.

    The U.S. has long refused that demand, saying Turkey has offered little evidence. Now, with this week’s assassination of Russia’s ambassador in Ankara, Turkey has upped the stakes, blaming not only Gülen but U.S. officials. Turkey’s foreign minister called to berate Secretary of State John Kerry for harbouring a terrorist, an accusation Kerry labeled “ridiculous.” Russia, meanwhile, is holding its fire, saying, “Let’s wait for a full investigation.”   

    That’s where we are now. But next month, Vladimir Putin’s pal Rex Tillerson will almost certainly succeed Kerry, and Jeff Sessions (who has softened his anti-Russia rhetoric) will be attorney-general. And Donald Trump will be president. None of them diehard fans of evidence-based policy-making.

    Meanwhile, events in the greater Middle East are moving fast. Aleppo has fallen, and Turkey, Russia and Iran have reportedly signed a draft agreement (“the Moscow Declaration”) on how to end the war in Syria. The U.S., its allies and proxies appear not to have been invited to Moscow for the talks. You can bet Trump will want in on the next round.

    The term "Dreikaiserbund" pops to mind. We have three hardline autocrats, who can only charitably be called pragmatic, with mutually overlapping interests and few if any ethical principles. Trump wants Russian oil, respect from his peers, and freedom from the onerous demands of Mideast leadership. Putin wants an end to sanctions, a free hand in Syria and Ukraine, respect, and influence in eastern Europe. Erdogan wants respect, a say into the Syrian settlement, freedom to crush internal dissent and separatism. The deal almost writes itself – although we will hardly ever see anything in writing. Gülen’s extradition (persuasive evidence or not) is the key token Turkey wants. I don’t see Trump objecting.

    There is a second tier of Mideast players, some of whom have been major players up till now: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran. Their concern right now has to be not losing rather than winning. Israel may get a symbolic win in the form of Jerusalem as capital and a settler-loving ambassador -- but in the long term it’s no longer the key to the regional power equation. Iran gets to keep a Shia-friendly regime in Syria, regional clout, and avoid reimposition of sanctions. Saudi Arabia gets to try rebuilding its economy while slowly backing out of its costly proxy wars without totally losing face.

    Then there are the losers: Turkish dissidents and Kurds, Syrian dissidents and Kurds, Saudi minority Shiites and dissidents, Russian and American dissidents, Palestinians, democratically minded Israelis, Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans, Europeans generally, NATO, the United Nations and its agencies. And of course, Gülen. Since this summer’s coup, Erdogan has publicly called for the death penalty to be reinstated.

    I`m sure I`ve missed some – and the big unknown is where Islamic State and Sunni jihadism generally emerge from this realignment. Almost certain defeat in the short term, but faith-based ideologies tend to be resilient.

    New World Order, folks!

    A link:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/21/common-ground-on-syria-uni...

    Comments

    Great piece, Ac, if depressing. I like the Three Emperors analogy, but this alliance seems far less stable. The dreikaiserbund last, what, 50 years? And they had a common enemy. The relationship between Erdogan and Putin has been chaotic, and Trump is unpredictable. I wouldn't be surprised if these guys turn on each other within a year or two.


    Yeah... What will you get . . .

    When a Caucasian Shepherd Russian Dog, a Turkish Kangal and a Pampered Poodle are put in small yard?

    ~OGD~


    O/t never saw either the Kangal or the Caucasian before--the Kangal is beautiful, the other guy,....memorable.

     


    Thanks, Michael. On principle, I favor detente over cold war. And given Trump's unpredictability (I might use a stronger term), his fondness for Putin may prove a steadying influence: "Explain again, Vlad, why I shouldn't just nuke Raqqaa and Mosul? I mean, waddya think we have those bombs for?"

    I'd much prefer countries to unite around concepts of universal human rights and respect for international law, but Trump's victory makes this kind of alliance -- autocratic/kleptocratic -- a no-brainer. The three leaders may be mercurial, but none of them are distracted by conflicting interests or deeply held principles. So I think their budding fraternity may end up having legs. At least through Trump's first term.

    That Prussian/Austrian/Russian thing had its shaky moments, BTW. Including a brief "fraternal" war over which would get to unify as "Germany." But they shared a fear of France (and its occasional ally Britain), and of their own internal forces for democratic and social change. This time around, the European powers have their own problems, so Trump, Putin and Erdogan can focus on internal opponents. With a vengeance, I suspect.


    Stephen Cohen is really emphatically clear that the direction US-Russian relations have been taking (and would probably continue to take had HRC won) was WWIII territory.

     

    Disclaimer:

     

    I declare myself incapable of listening to anything Stephen Cohen says for more than 90 seconds before finding myself in total agreement, no matter how stalwartly I thought my previous contrary opinion well thought through...maybe it's the authoritative baritone, maybe it's because I know he's fucking Katrina...the guy just has credibility for me.

     

    That said, it's hard not to think that the Russian desk at State may be a rare bright spot, existentially for the world, if not for the sundry folk who dissent in their several languages

    Image may contain: 3 people, meme and textworse still, I think Putin will be a steadying influence on Trump...It's come to this....


    Ah yes, WWIII, when will it come. I heard over Donbas, always late. 

    Of course I've just come off this 8-year-binge of "it would have been worse if Hillary had been in charge", and now that she's likely retired empty handed it'll be the equally empty conjecture, "lucky for us, she would've had us in WW III in no time flat". 

    See, it's weird to me, as it seems the folks who started world wars and launched massive invasions across the land mass of Asia were usually frothing with angry unhinged shrieks and slogans, and the worst I've heard come out of Hillary's mouth was a punnish "we came, we saw, he died" in a rather mellow spirit for a warmongering psychopath.

    Having just seen "Scream", I'm assuming you simply have the wrong movie. Maybe some time in the horror section to reacquaint....


    I found her little Julius Caesar joke rather less anodyne than you, perhaps because of the actual mechanics which involved (as I am given to understand) a bayonet and one end of the GI tract (ed note: not the mouth...)


    That's great, JR - how did you ever handle evidence as a lawyer? Hillary's response was to first reports on Oct 20. The video and report of the bayonet sodomizing came out the 23rd/24th. Aren't we back to Hillary supposedly laughing about a child rape victim she was defending, despite all evidence? How many times do you have to be proven wrong before you look/think before you leap? Hey, let's hear the one about how she attacked and intimidated Bill's victims - the great thing about Hillary is you can make any old shit up and some sucker(s) will believe it. Suspension of disbelief/cognitive malfunction zone.


    I think the "shared fear" point you raise about France has deep significance today. We had our France in the form of the USSR, which cemented our alliances and unified the public and for the second half of the 20th century. One thing Democrats and Republicans could always agree on was the Soviet threat. I believe that one factor in our polarization today is the lack of an existential threat.

    A corollary is that our alliances are likely to be less stable as well. You're right that Trump-Putin-Erdogan lack conflicting interests and deeply held principles, but they also lack a unifying common interest. If it serves their political purposes to demonize each other, they won't hesitate to do it.


    I don't see how Erdogan really fits into the picture--he's a carbon buyer, whereas Putin and Tillerson (by extension, Trump) are sellers.

     

    To the extent that pipeline issues were at the heart of the attempt to push Assad out of the way of the delivery of Qatari carbon. Erdogan pretty  much set himself on the ISIS side of the fence, his current manifestations to the contrary notwithstanding.


    Your Qatari pipeline idea doesn't hold much water or gas because it was just an idea and was actually an Iran/Qatar joint venture for the North Pars field. I don't think Iran ever planned to overthrow al Assad for this project.

    Qatar already ships gargantuan quantities of LNG to Europe without any pipeline needed and they supply one large local pipelines in their area. 70% of their production is converted to LNG and that is where their growth is headed.

    The Gulenist forces control of Turkey's southern border before the coup attempt and what appeared to occur there gave the false impression that Erdogan or the Turkish government were involved with the IS but they never were and are fighting them today. Even Putin shut up about his claim of Erdogan selling IS oil because it wasn't true and he is the one who needs to build a gas pipeline to Turkey.


    Your points will need more clarification before they can be compared with other accounts of the facts.

    Which "Qatar and Iran joint ventures" are you referring to? You make it sound like they are not competing against other for market share. That seems unlikely enough that the burden falls upon you to demonstrate otherwise.

    The "pipeline idea" is not just one pipeline but the idea of competing pipelines. Maybe all that has been reported is false since they are only proposals but no where in all that reporting have I read about Qatar and Iran collaborating on that end.

    I do not understand what you are describing in regards to a connection between "Gulenist forces" and the " false impression that Erdogan or the Turkish government were involved with the IS." Who is talking on the other side of this argument?

    The accounts I have read regarding the sell of ISIS supplied oil through Turkey have all been about the black market. Do you have information linking Edrogan to this market?

    Why would Putin want a pipeline that would undercut his market share of gas?


    You give no evidence that Trump plans to throw Gulen under the bus;  you just don't like Trump, and project onto him all your fears.

    In what way is Trump a "hardline autocrat", when he has not yet taken power and you have no idea how he will rule?

    Having spent eight years actively supporting the worst President in American history (at least, in terms of foreign policy), you now seem to be trying to blame Trump for the results of Obama's actions or inaction.  Trump is not yet President.  It was not Trump who allowed Russia back into the Middle East, and it was not Trump who permitted Iranian hegemony in the region.

    Erdogan is a super creep, admitted.  His part in the destruction of Europe by mass immigration has not adequately been examined.  But the refugees and migrants flooding Europe (and Turkey, and Jordan, and Iran) are not from Iraq, the country that the US took charge of.  They are from Syria, the country that the US abandoned.

    Israel was never "the key to the regional power equation", and never pretended to be.  Who are the "American dissidents, Palestinians, democratically minded Israelis" whom you call "losers" and whose fate you equate with Turkish dissidents and Kurds?  Is Trump going to round them up and send them to Erdogan, the way you think he'll be treating Gulen?


    What Trump plans is a mystery but his choice for National Security Advisor has not been shy and retiring on the issue of extraditing Gulen.


    You feel that GW Bush a better foreign policy than Obama? Please elaborate.


    Moat good link on Flynn. He considers himself an unexceled expert on contemporary and historical Islam, and a man who can see through the superficial to the sinister hidden heart of darkness in middle eastern enigmas like Gulen or Erdogran.

    Perhaps worse for Gulen, Flynn says this at his 11/8/2016 Hill article:

    The primary bone of contention between the U.S. and Turkey is Fethullah Gülen, a shady Islamic mullah residing in Pennsylvania whom former President Clinton once called his “friend” in a well circulated video.

    A FRIEND OF BILL!!! What other evidence is required?

    At least Flynn doesn't imply Gulen was in on the Clinton pedophile Comet Pizza ring!


    Please assist your reading comprehension challenged interlocutor by deconstructing for me "shady Islamic mullah"

     

    1. Is there a non-Islamic Mullah?  If so, does he know that his title is an Arabic word and Arabic is the language of the Koran?

     

    2. Amongst the cohort of Mullahs who are Islamic, are there any sunny ones?  How might we expect to distinguish them from the shady ones?  Are they the Mullahs who stay alert for the bombs all over the place in Jihadi apartments?

     

    3. Other than showing a disinclination to live in a Turkey that over the years has turned its back on the (presumably laudable to Flynn) secular vision of Attaturk, how does Gulent conduct himself so as to be numbered under the "shady not sunny" rubric?  (that's not actually something to be comprehended from the three word quote, I concede...)

     

    ETA Ok, I AM comprehension challenged!  I re read the full quote, and, of course, it is the receiving of a declaration of friendship from Bill Clinton that disqualifies Gulent from membership in the National Association of Sunny Mullahs.


    Also this:

    Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with real estate, aerospace, and consulting interests, told The Intercept on Thursday that one of his companies, Inovo BV, paid Flynn’s company “tens of thousands of dollars” for analysis on world affairs. 

    Note, all Turkish businessmen not in jail or seeking refugee status in Germany are Erdogran butt kissers. As is General Flynn. Our next Director of National Security, as the swamp deepens under Trump.

    Tea comment lands Turk cafe boss in jail. TRUMP/Flynn - Fantastic guy Erdogran!

    A democracy the US can copy under Tweeter in Chief!


    Flynn makes me really nervous. He was competent enough in operations to be promoted to important positions and then was then moved toward the old revolving door when he insisted Iran was behind Benghazi. He knows a lot about different actors in the region but doesn't seem to grasp even the simplest divergences of interest amongst them. This unbalanced set of skills combined with his financial interests in the business of information makes him the perfect advisor to the Artist of the Deal.

    It is like a Fantasy Football game from Hell.


    Agree. Trump has assembled almost an entire top tier of nutjobs. And Trump is the biggest. It's like Orwell's 1984/Animal Farm.

    Ignorance is strength.

    Trump loves us.

    Lock her up!

    Clinton's Wall Street bad, Trump's Wall Street good!


    Sarah Chayes had the desk next to his in Afghanistan, and she is not optimistic

     


    Good to see debate heat up, even if much of it is of the “Ac hasn’t a clue” variety. Was Hillary’s campaign rhetoric more hawkish toward Russia than, say, her successor John Kerry’s actions? Sure, but as secretary of state, she dutifully toed Obama’s careful tightrope between accommodation, tactical cooperation and sanctions – which is what U.S. interests dictate. As president, she would have pretty much stayed the course, avoiding WW III -- not that it’s relevant to how Trump will lead the country into a partnership far cozier than mere détente.

    Lurker asserts I “have no idea how (Trump) will rule” and am simply projecting my fears onto him. I have listened to his speeches, read his post-election tweets, and examined his cabinet nominations. So to quote the president-elect: “Wrong!” I have a damn good idea how he will rule. Is Trump an autocrat? His vitriolic response to satirical impersonations on TV and even the mildest media criticism (denouncing individual reporters by name in late-night twitter rants) suggests that yes, he hasn’t the slightest concept of political accountability or freedom of speech.

    As for whether Trump will throw Gülen under the bus – yes, that is entirely my speculation. I see it as one of his first big tests; let’s see how it plays out. As a few dagblog commenters point out, his nominee for national security adviser seems up for cutting that deal. While we’re at it, keep a close eye on how long Edward Snowden’s asylum in Moscow lasts. You heard it here first.


    You're worried that Trump might keep his election promises?  If so, he'd be the first politician in history who did.  No wonder you talk about a "New World Order"!

    I think it's far more likely that some gullible idiot will take seriously the overinflated leftwing Armageddon rhetoric (It's the end of the world!  Trump is the Antichrist!  The sky is falling!) and kill Trump before he gets to the White House.  (I can hear some Dagbloggers sighing "If only"!)  Get ready for President Pence.


    President Pence, PP - a coincidence? I think not.



    Trump faces a bigger threat that the racists he attracted will seek physical revenge if he fails to deport Latinos and register Muslims.


    Ann Coulter herself practically started recrui.ting snipers when Trump had that moment of "softening"

     

    Of course, she had just that same day released her book  proclaiming Trump to be the risen Christ.  It was an embarassing juxtaposition.


    That is a way to trivialize what other people say. Not much of an argument, though.


    Lurker does not defend his statements, he just posts and moves on.


    He has one thing right, though.  President Pence is the last sentence of a shitload of story board variants for this script.

     

    ETA, which is to say, the joke is on us....


    In point of fact, even as a sophist's slight of hand it is incorrect--studies show that presidents  at least make pretty serious stabs at actualizing the shit they run on--i forget the number but if I  just reach back here to the research vault--hold on--somewhere between 62 and 78 %.  more or less. but they have a precise number, anyway, and it's respectably close to 3/4 of their declared aims at least get a serious run. 

     

    otoh, anyone who remembers the fate of  card check might have another take...


    You're right, Moat, but there's not much to argue against.  Let's look at acanuck's original essay.

    The first five paragraphs are historical background, mixed with unsupported sneeers ("None of them [are] diehard fans of evidence-based policy-making").

    In the sixth, he calls Trump a "hardline autocrat", and predicts Gulen's extradition.  Trump has not been in power for a single day.  Will he be a hardline autocrat or not?  I don't know.  Do you?  Acanuck knows, because he's "listened to his [campaign] speeches, read his post-election tweets, and examined his cabinet nominations".  How do you tell if someone is an autocrat by looking at his nominations?  Do autocrat nominations look different from non-autocrat?  He doesn't say.  I poked fun at him reaching conclusions based on election speeches.  Do you disagree?  He later admits that Gulen's putative extradition is just a guess.

    Your link about Flynn was interesting.  Thank you for it.  But I don't suppose any President anywhere has ever completely agreed with all the opinions of all his advisors.  We'll just have to wait and see.  Jumping to conclusions on the grounds that Trump is a fiend sent from Hell is not useful.


    We have the example of Duterte, another autocrat Trump admires who's actually killed a number of people. As JR says, "Believe the autocrat" - what Trump has said quite likely will guide what he does. You can phrase it as "pray for the best; prepare for the worst" but I don't see the point in Groucho's " who ya gonna believe, me? Or your lying eyes (ears)?" Qaddafi's in a grave now because he said he was going to wipe out a city of civilians - what you say often has consequences, and our foreign partners and adversaries will be less forgiving of loose lips than the local GOP compatriots who are invested in spinning things to be benign.


    China took Trump's words and actions at face value. They stole a drone in response. Trump then posted a tweet that was nonsensical given that the US and China had already worked a deal to have the drone returned. Trump has time for self-promoting rallies, but no time for intelligence briefing that would have informed him of the negotiations. Trump also tweets about having a nuclear arms race. Anyone who does not fear for the country in the hands of Donald Trump has simply not been paying attention.   

    Edit to add:

    North Korea may take Trump up on the desire for an arms race

    http://thedailybanter.com/2016/12/north-korea-wants-to-give-trump-his-ar...


    Briefings are hard, rallies are fun...Trump is all about fun.


    It is true that we are all just guessing. I concede that my hyperbolic expressions are not helping people start up a dialectic where divergent opinions can be discussed in the interest of shared values.
    On the other hand, the President Elect is not doing that either. At all. It is kind of weird.
    There is some place between preparing for the Apocalypse and noticing that something is different from what has happened before.
    Maybe we should confine our discussion to what is actually unique about the present moment.


    Most President-elect do not comment on actions taken by the sitting President. The idiot, twitter Trump is not following this tradition. The country elected a numbskull. On twitter he blasts Obama's abstention on the UN vote against settlements. In public, Trump says he and Obama had a pleasant conversation. Trump is a walking talking disaster. We don't have to wait until January 20th to face facts. Trump is impulsive and malleable.


    As I said,events in the greater Middle East are moving fast. Just days after the Moscow Declaration, Putin has announced a Syria-wide ceasefire that will kick in less than three hours from now. Turkey and Russia will be guarantors, and Iran has signed on, as have the Assad regime and the moderate rebel coalition. The United Nations envoy for Syria, Staffan di Mistura, has welcomed the deal. Excluded are Islamic State and (at Turkish insistence) Kurdish forces; there is some confusion as to whether the al-Qa'ida-linked group formerly known as al-Nusra is covered or not.

    What is clear is who is being sidelined: the United States, the Saudis, and their Gulf allies. They aren't even invited to the initial peace talks Putin and Erdogan are setting up in Kazakhstan for before Trump is sworn in. I suspect the idea is to have an on-the-ground power-sharing deal pretty much worked out by the time a UN-backed conference meets in Geneva in early February.

    Trump can attend, be warmly welcomed into the fraternity of world leaders, sign on the dotted line, and take credit on twitter for having solved the Syrian Civil War. He will, you know.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/putin-agreement-on-syria-ceasefire-1.3915095


    That freak can say whatever he wants, and the media can quote him with heart ❤️ emojis.  At some point the actual damage that he does will come crashing in.  I'm not looking forward to it (like the GOP would have if Obama had made catastrophic blunders) but I have no doubt that the hurt will come rolling in.

    If the purist, fake "progressives" still want to vote third party or stay home to teach us yet another lesson, and the rubes vote to continue their decline, so be it.  

    I am working locally.  I am organizing a two-day protest of the GOP ruining of the ACA, Medicare and Social Security, and I just donated (bigly) to our Democratic governor nominee.


    So who will take the Syrian countryside and ISIS capitol Raqqa?

    Russia may want to declare victory and let someone else finish off ISIS and whatever other groups are left in Syria. There were over a hundred rebel groups.

    Take Raqqa, and without the Kurds, who are left out of the deal...again?

    Assad doesn't have enough troops, militias or Iranians to take any more ground and still hold what he has. Turkey has a collapsing economy and a paranoid despot running it.

    Syria was gamed by the right and Fox as an Obama 'retreat' from the 'strong' GW Bush years, partisan bullshit to throw at Obama as 'weak' when in reality, no American gave a crap about Syrians.

    Even the most brainwashed Trump supporter knows the Russians bombed the crap out of Syria to get to whatever point they are at now - rulers of a graveyard and a destroyed major city. They know Trump did not do squat.

    Grudges last for centuries in the Middle East, and far too much blood has been shed for a stable peace to reign across the region.


    Even the most brainwashed Trump supporter knows the Russians bombed the crap out of Syria to get to whatever point they are at now ... ...

    Pick any starting date and going until now: Of all the bombs dropped in the Middle East, measured by number or poundage, what would the ratio of those the U.S is responsible for compared to those that Russia is responsible for be, by your estimate?  

     

     


     From Feb 1 2009 to today I estimate  the ratio of  the bombs dropped in the Middle East by the US   is less than 10% of those dropped by the Russians. 

     

     


    Flavius, your estimate that Russia hs dropped ten times the number of bombs may be right but I doubt it. The U.S. is dropping bombs faster than it can make them. 

    Here are some figures, maybe accurate, who knows?    17,021 Coalition Strikes, 10,756 Strikes in Iraq, 6,265 Strikes in Syria,  870 Days of Campaign,  2,027 Minimum Civilians Estimated Killed by Coalition, 62,788 Bombs and Missiles Dropped. 

    The problem with this “kill-em’-all with airstrikes” rule, is that it is not working. Pentagon officials claim that at least 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed (an anonymous official said 23,000 in November, while on Wednesday, Warren added “about 2,500” more were killed in December.) Remarkably, they also claim that alongside the 25,000 fighters killed, only 6 civilians have “likely” been killed in the seventeen-month air campaign. At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged. In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated the size of the Islamic State to be between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters, while on Wednesday, Warren again repeated the 30,000 estimate. To summarize the anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 – 25,000 = 30,000.

    Following a Camp David summit in May 2015, the US approved a new sale of $1.29 billion in munitions to the Saudis intended to replace bombs already used in the Yemen War. It also approved a $380 million sale of guided bombs to the UAE.

    While the US does not routinely report when weapons are delivered to its foreign customers, State Department spokesman David McKeeby did say in US Defense News in January this year that “the US government and industry … delivered 4,500 precision-guided munitions to the GCC countries in 2015, including 1,500 taken directly from US military stocks — a significant action given our military’s own needs.”


    From Daily Beast:

    Five months after the first Russian warplanes slipped into Syria to reinforce the embattled regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Kremlin’s air wing near Latakia—on Syria’s Mediterranean coast in the heart of regime territory—has found its rhythm, launching roughly one air strike every 20 minutes targeting Islamic State militants, U.S.-backed rebels and civilians in rebel-controlled areas.

    “From Feb. 10 to 16, aircraft of the Russian aviation group in the Syrian Arab Republic have performed 444 combat sorties engaging 1,593 terrorist objects in the provinces of Deir Ez Zor, Daraa, Homs, Hama, Latakia and Aleppo,” the Russian defense ministry claimed in a statement.

    That’s double the rate of air strikes that the much larger U.S.-led coalition has managed to sustain in its own, much older campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Leave out the coalition airstrikes in Iraq, where there are no Russian forces, and the disparity appears even greater. While lately Russia has launched around 60 air raids every day in Syria, the U.S. and its allies have pulled off just seven, on average, since launching their first attacks in Syria in September 2014.

    To be fair, the coalition’s daily pace of air strikes fluctuates. On Feb. 21, U.S. and allied planes launched 14 attacks in Syria—a high-than-average number, but still far fewer raids than Russia launched every day in mid-February.


    I read this last week and wanted to comment. I think you've nailed it. The resurgence and normalization of authoritarian leadership placates those living in fear, but ultimately as you put it:

    Then there are the losers: Turkish dissidents and Kurds, Syrian dissidents and Kurds, Saudi minority Shiites and dissidents, Russian and American dissidents, Palestinians, democratically minded Israelis, Ukrainians and other eastern Europeans, Europeans generally, NATO, the United Nations and its agencies. And of course, Gülen. Since this summer’s coup, Erdogan has publicly called for the death penalty to be reinstated.  

    The overwhelming majority of people won't be safer, and those on the margins will feel the squeeze. If I were the Cleric I would try to flee the U.S.


    People turn fearful and look for men on horseback when their country, especially one with vast potential, faces seemingly intractable social or economic problems. Erdogan, Trump and Putin have the same basic sales pitch as Mussolini and Hitler: "Make X great again." If there's no obvious solution to the vague fears of the majority, a quick fix is to find internal or external enemies to blame. Ethnic or religious minorities fit the bill perfectly, even if targeting them just makes problems worse. I suspect Gülen will stay and put the U.S. court system to the test.

    (To be clear, I'm not saying Trump IS Hitler, just noting parallels in the soil authoritarians spring from.)


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