October 9, 2019

Trump, Turkey, and the Kurds - a study in perfidy


The long-threatened Turkish invasion of northern Syria has finally begun. I am in total disagreement with the decision of President Donald Trump to basically give Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a green light to mount an attack on what have become some of America's best allies in the region - the Syrian Kurds.

I spent a fair amount of time working with the Iraqi Kurds in the mid-1990s. Even then, the perceived betrayal of the Kurds in 1975 as part of the fallout of the Shah’s signing of the Treaty of Algiers was still a sore point with the Kurds. It appears that we are repeating the same treatment with the Syrian Kurds, this time at the behest of the Turks.

For some time now, probably since the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), I have not regarded Turkey as an ally. While they are part of NATO, it seems to me they are not really our allies. Ignore the platitudes and lip service that flows out of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Central Command - the Turks are not a close ally, they have been and continue to be a major part of the problem.

The impending crises - and there will be several because of this irresponsible invasion - will be a direct result of Erdoğan's foolhardy decision to invade, and Trump's unfathomable acquiescence. Certainly our access to Turkey's Incirlik Air Base is not that critical.

I hate to say this, but when the fighting between Turkish troops and the YPG starts, I am rooting for the Kurds. The Turks haven't fared well in their previous incursions into Syria: Operation Olive Branch in the Afrin area, and Operation Euphrates Freedom to the northeast of Aleppo.

In both of these operations, the Turks claimed to be fighting ISIS, when in reality they were attacking the Kurdish People Protection Units, known by the Kurdish initials YPG. The Turks, of course claim the YPG is nothing more than an extension of the designated terrorist group, the Turkey-based Kurdish Workers' Party, known more commonly by the Kurdish initials PKK. Now they are using this faulty rationale as the excuse to invade northern Syria.

A few of my predictions:

- the Kurds will stop offensive operations against the remaining ISIS pockets in the country and redeploy to fight the Turks
- the Kurds will move their forces from guarding the tens of thousands of ISIS fighters and their families, and redeploy to fight the Turks
- ISIS will get a breather from Syrian Democratic Forces attacks and regroup
- the Syrian regime will start operations to re-establish its sovereignty over the Kurdish-controlled areas
- the PKK may step up their attacks inside Turkey
- the United Nations will make noise but basically do nothing

If the Turks are looking for a fight, they may just find a tough one in northeastern Syria. I cannot believe that President Trump is going to sit by and watch a blood bath ensue in Syria. This whole situation is unnecessary and unhelpful. The responsibility for whatever happens rests with Presidents Erdoğan and Trump.




October 6, 2019

The "Israeli Carry" and the new season of Fauda

Israeli actor Lior Raz portraying commando Doron Kavillio and "the Israeli carry"

As we fans of the Netflix series Fauda await the release of the third season of the excellent Israeli nail-biter drama series, I thought I would offer a few thoughts of something I noted in the production. For my review of this series, see Miniseries Review: "Fauda" (Netflix 2017- ).

I believe this new season's operations area may shift from the Nablus area of the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. I am sure it will be excellent, but am somewhat disappointed as I find the Gazan dialect more difficult than the more familiar (to me) south Levantine Arabic spoken on the West Bank.

Some years ago, while serving as an operations officer in the U.S. intelligence community, I was sent to a defensive training course that involved, among other things, an intensive personal weapons course. The first thing I learned is that I didn't know as much as I thought about handling weapons, specifically semiautomatic pistols.

That changed - the instructors, probably among the best in the world, were relentless in forcing me to acquire these critical weapons skills. I still remember being knocked to the ground by them if I did not drop to at least my knees before reloading my weapon...I digress. It all paid off later in the field.

Most of the time in the training, which ranged from concealable pistols to machine guns to anti-tank weapons, was spent with a personal sidearm - it became an extension of my arm. I was trained on the Browning Hi-Power and Beretta 92FS, and later the Glock 19 (all chambered in the 9mm round). I still have a Glock 19, but if I had to chose my favorite weapon, I'd likely go with the tried-and-true Browning. It just feels right in my hand.

For those of us who have had weapons training - and I don't mean the NRA safety course most states require to obtain a concealed carry permit/handgun license (depending on state) - we noticed the skills exhibited by some of the Israelis in the Fauda series, particularly by the leading actor Lior Raz. Raz should be good at this - he served as a commando in the elite undercover counter-terrorism unit known as Sayeret Duvdevan. I isolated on video one instance of Raz using what we refer to as "the Israeli carry." You can watch it in Season 2, Episode 3, timecode 19:20.

Before I show you the video, allow me to explain just what this means. Most U.S. government organizations' protocol is to carry a sidearm with the weapon loaded, round in the chamber, hammer (if present) back, and safety on. This is sometimes referred to as having the weapon in Condition One. If the weapon is needed, all that is required is to disengage the safety and pull the trigger. It is fast, and requires the use of only one hand. In a high-stress situation, the fewer steps you need to do to bring the weapon into action is better. Milliseconds may count.

That said, carrying a weapon in this configuration can be unnerving. The Israelis believe that it is too dangerous for most situations, and use what is called weapons Condition Three, or in the common parlance, the Israeli Carry (although they did not develop it). In this condition, the weapon has a loaded magazine, but there is no round in the chamber, and the safety is off. If the weapon is needed, you charge the weapon (rack the slide to load a round in the chamber) while removing it from the holster; the safety is not in play. It is theoretically a bit slower, and does require the use of two hands.

In my training, our primary instructor told us, "You are not a professional masters at arms, like Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces soldiers, or Rangers. Hopefully you will never need to use your weapon - it is there only for your self-defense, not part of your operating skill set." He recommended we consider the safer Israeli Carry as our normal protocol.

He went on to explain that in a high-adrenaline situation, your motor skills become impaired. As I learned later, drawing a weapon in a situation where you may have to actually use it is a high-adrenaline situation. Removing a small safety can be considered a fine motor skill and under stress, difficult. Racking a slide, however, is a gross motor skill and probably easier to accomplish. It made sense to me - I adopted the Israeli Carry, and still use it to this day.

Now, I want you to watch how a professional master at arms brings a weapon into action (some call it "into battery"). Remember, Lior Raz was an Israeli commando who did this for a living. He withdraws the weapon, charges it and fires it in almost the blink of an eye. It is hard to imagine doing this any faster. I slowed it down to 1/8 speed - it is still almost impossible to detect the racking of the slide.





October 2, 2019

Miniseries Review: "The Spy" (Netflix - 2019)


Eli Cohen was arguably one of Israel's best, if not the best, intelligence assets in its relatively short history. This new miniseries certainly highlights his value as an Israeli agent who penetrated the highest levels of the Syrian government. The producers attempted - with a modicum of success - to tell Cohen's story.

Most people are aware of the basic facts of this case: Eli Cohen, an Egyptian-born son of Syrian Jews from Aleppo, immigrated to Israel, where he twice applied to work for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. While working as an accountant, he was finally offered employment with Mossad in 1959. Cohen's assignment was to penetrate the Syrian political and military establishments.

The Israelis developed a legend (that's the technical term for a cover story) using the name Kamil Amin Thabit. The legend had Cohen/Thabit move to Argentina, where he posed as a businessman. He made it known that he was anxious to "return" to Syria. He soon befriended military attaché Colonel Amin al-Hafiz at the Syrian embassy in Buenos Aires.

In 1962, Cohen made the move to Damascus, where his extravagant spending and parties gained him popularity among the wealthy and influential in the country. As luck would have it, Colonel al-Hafiz returned to Damascus, after which he participated in the 1963 Ba'th Party coup and later became the president of Syria.

You would think as an intelligence operation, it doesn't get any better than that. Actually, it does - later in the operation, Cohen became a senior adviser to the Syrian minister of defense. This gave him access to particularly sensitive military information. In the series, Cohen was named deputy minister of defense - just one of the theatrical licenses taken.

In the end, Cohen was captured and executed. I won't spoil the how and why for those who have not seen the miniseries.

My comments. I enjoyed the history, but not the theatrical license the producers took to tell it. The ridiculous story of the Israeli farmer on the border and the cameo appearance by a 7-year old Usamah bin Ladin are two such examples. They were both contrived and unnecessary - the actual story is compelling enough.

I have always been interested in the Eli Cohen story, on a professional and personal level. Professionally, I had hope to see more of the tradecraft used by Cohen - his communications systems, secret travel to/from Israel, use of dead drops if any. There were instances in the series where Cohen took photographs of classified Syrian military documents. How did he get the photographs back to the Mossad? Gathering information is sometimes the easy part, it's the getting it to headquarters that's hard.

On a personal level, when I was assigned as the Air Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, I visited what we called the "Eli Cohen apartment" in the Abu Rumanah section of the city. In fact, the embassy leased the apartment as part of the housing pool. It was fascinating to stand there on the balcony that looks over what was the Ministry of Defense compound in Cohen's time.

As for history, we often visited Marjah Square, the site of Cohen's public execution. By the time I was there in the 1990s, public hangings had been moved to the much larger 'Abbasiyin Square. As with Cohen, the bodies of those executed were allowed to hang for hours, ostensibly as a deterrent.

It is an interesting story. I'd recommend it with the caveat that there is more sensationalism than needed. This is a real-life drama that would have stood on its own. That said, I think Sacha Baron Cohen gave a good performance. It is available on Netflix.




August 18, 2019

Turkish security zone in Syria - not so fast, Sultan Erdoğan

U.S. and Turkish forces joint patrol in Syria (U.S. Army)

Note: This is a follow-up to my earlier article, Erdoğan threatens to invade Syria - this time he just might.

In response to persistent Turkish demands for the establishment of a security zone inside northern Syria, the United States and the Turks have begun the development of the framework for such a zone. It appears that the U.S. side has pared down some of the more ridiculous, unrealistic, unnecessary, and unhelpful Turkish demands and will attempt to prevent Turkish autonomous military action against the Syrian Kurds.

It is important to remember the major participants here. The Syrian Kurds of the People's Protection Units (known by their Kurdish initials YPG) provided the bulk of the ground forces in the U.S.-led coalition-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

It was the SDF who, with massive coalition air support, liberated most of northern Syria from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The Turks provided only minimal support, and in most cases, were impediments to SDF operations, at times even attacking YPG forces engaged in combat operations against ISIS.

The Turks believe the YPG to be nothing more than an extension of the outlawed Turkish Kurdish Workers' Party (known as the PKK). The United States considers, and has designated, the PKK a terrorist group.* It does not, however, recognize Turkey's claims that the YPG is part of the PKK.

The American efforts are aimed at preventing a Turkish military incursion into northern Syria to eliminate the YPG. I doubt the Turks have the capability to achieve that goal - they have proven to be able to kill a lot of Kurds, but not capable of achieving much lasting military effect. Their two previous incursions have proven to create more problems than they solved.

If the Turkish army mounts a wholesale offensive against the SDF/YPG, it will soon find itself drawn further into Syria and engaged in the exact type of fighting at which the Kurds excel. More importantly, they will be attacking a U.S. ally - there are American forces embedded with the SDF who will be placed at risk.

The plan is - probably purposely - ambiguous. It allows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to appeal to his base with strong talk about attacking "terrorists" in northern Syria, and allows the United States to keep faith with its Syrian Kurdish allies.

It also has the added, and important, benefit of preventing greater political differences between Ankara and Washington. The two countries are already at odds over Turkey's recent purchase of the Russian S-400 (NATO: SA-21 Growler) air defense system, and the resultant U.S. expulsion of Turkey from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.



According to documents allegedly leaked from the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey's demand for and exclusive security zone to protect the country against Syrian Kurdish "terrorists" is now being referred to as a "peace corridor" to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees.

The Turks had wanted an approximately 20-mile deep zone inside Syria to be exclusively patrolled by the Turkish army for the entire length of the 250 miles east of the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border.

The U.S. response proposes a three-mile corridor to be jointly patrolled by Turkish and American troops. A further five-mile zone will be patrolled only by U.S. forces. A joint command center will be established in Sanliurfa, Turkey (see map).

Oh, it gets better - the Russians have declared that the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Asad must agree to whatever arrangement the Turks and Americans reach. Of course, that's not going to happen - Syrian agreement would merely legitimize Turkish and American presence in Syria.

It appears to me that the United States is continuing the talks, dragging out the timeline while preventing a Turkish incursion that would be disastrous for the region as well as wider international relations. In any case, the likelihood that Erdoğan is going to control a 20 mile strip of northern Syria is diminishing - and that's a good thing.

He should concentrate on once again being a NATO ally....

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* Some critics of this designation believe it was done as a concession to NATO ally Turkey.




August 4, 2019

Erdoğan threatens to invade Syria - this time he just might


"Ankara will not continue to tolerate the US-backed YPG terror group’s harassment in the region" – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

It appears that Turkey's (or more correctly, Erdoğan's) long-threatened invasion of northern Syria may actually happen - there are reports this afternoon of Turkish shelling along the border. This self-styled new Ottoman sultan - true to form - couches attacking the Syrian Kurds as a counterterrorist operation.

The Syrian Kurds the Turkish president is threatening to attack are the People's Protection Units (known more commonly by the Kurdish initials YPG), the major fighting force on the ground against fighters of the Islamic State in Iraqi and Syria (ISIS) in Syria. While the Turks did in fact engage some ISIS forces, most of their efforts were misguided, aimed at the YPG and not the actual enemy.

The Turkish government of President Erdoğan regards the Syrian YPG as nothing more than a branch of the Turkish Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK. The PKK has been designated by the United States and NATO as a terrorist organization, many believe in a gesture to NATO "ally" Turkey.

The United States and its other allies do believe the YPG to be part of the YPG. No matter how many of Erdoğan’s sycophants claim otherwise - and as soon as I write this, they will come out of the proverbial woodwork - the YPG is not the PKK.

As far as I know, the YPG has never attacked targets inside Turkey. The PKK certainly has, and has used northern Syria as a base of operations, but this predates the civil war that began in 2011. Support for the PKK has long been an periodic foreign policy tool of the Syrian regime of both the late President Hafiz al-Asad and the current president, his son Bashar.

Following the territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria, mostly at the hands of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the majority of which is made up of YPG fighters, Erdoğan made the decision to take advantage of the situation and demand that there be a security zone along the Turkish border extending into Syria by as much as 30 kilometers (18 miles).

Erdoğan even launched several barely successful military incursions into Syria as the first step. Since it didn't go so well for the Turks, they want the U.S. to agree to the establishment of the zone and force the YPG to comply.

Negotiations have gone nowhere, and the Turks continue making threats to invade. While his army has the capability with armor, artillery and air support to push the YPG militias – basically a light infantry force – back away from the border, the YPG is likely to fight.

We don't need this confrontation - there are still issues with the remnants of ISIS in northern Syria that need to be addressed, not the least of which is the thousands of ISIS prisoners. The ISIS prisoners not only include the fighters, but their wives and children. Many of these are from foreign countries, including the United States and Europe.

So now we have a NATO ally, albeit a problematic one (need I say F-35 and S-400?) threatening to attack another U.S. ally. As has been since almost the beginning of the civil war, and with very few exceptions, the Turks have been decidedly unhelpful – and ineffective - in the fight against ISIS.

One has to keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of ISIS fighters that come from outside Iraq and Syria arrived in Syria via Turkey. Having spent a lot of time on both sides of that border, I can say that crossing into Syria from Turkey is not done alone or without help.

This potential invasion is not only unhelpful, but totally unnecessary. The YPG is not a threat to Turkey. I suspect Erdoğan has read the polls in Turkey – his AKP party is in disarray and was rebuked in the latest local elections.

What’s the solution? Start a military operation against what Erdoğan claims to be a terrorist threat to Turkey. It might sell in Anatolia, maybe even in Trakya, but certainly not here.

Unhelpful and unnecessary.




August 3, 2019

Movie Review: "The Red Sea Diving Resort" (Netflix - 2019)


There has been a flood of publicity over the release of The Red Sea Diving Resort, a film about Operation Brothers, a Mossad operation conducted from 1979 to 1983 in which thousands of Ethiopian Jews were clandestinely transported from refugee camps in Sudan to Israel.

It is a great story, one that needs to be told. Unfortunately, this attempt to tell that story falls short.

In the late 1970's, the Israeli intelligence service was secretly moving Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel via a circuitous route, usually by air through European cities. Because of the visibility of the flights and increased Sudanese security, Mossad leadership halted the operation, believing that it posed too great of a risk to both the refugees and its officers.

A group of Mossad officers came up with a plan to resurrect the effort to bring the Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Having planned and executed intelligence operations during my career, I regard the Israeli plan as truly outside-the-box thinking.

The officers, through off-shore shell accounts, purchased a defunct diving resort on Sudan's Red Sea coast. The plan was to move the Ethiopian refugees from the camps in Sudan to the resort, where Israeli Navy commandos would use inflatable boats to move them to an Israeli-owned, ostensibly commercial, trawler for transport back to the port of Eilat via the Gulf of Aqabah.

Excellent tradecraft and the courage of the Mossad operatives resulted in over 3000 Ethiopians being taken to safety by the time the operation ended in 1983.

A word to my fellow Arabic linguists. The Sudanese dialect of Arabic is unique and difficult, but the quality of the language in the movie, with a few exceptions, was mediocre at best.

Again, a great story. The movie version seems contrived, uneven, and focused more on the personal issues of the Israeli officers rather than the plight of the Ethiopians they were there to rescue.

Watch it because it is a compelling story, and forgive the shoddy production.





ADDENDUM - Did the Iraqi Air Force revert to the Saddam-era roundel?


As you can see, the Iraqi Air Force responded to my inquiry - they have been using the legacy roundel again since March 2019.

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Top: C-130J-30 transport aircraft / Bottom: King Air 350ER reconnaissance platform

In the above photographs, taken from the Iraqi Air Force Twitter page, it appears that the Iraqis have decided to re-apply the old traditional roundel* on at least some of it military aircraft.

The Iraqi roundel used from 1931 to the end of 2003 is a green triangle with a stylized Arabic letter jim in red, with the required dot that is part of the letter in white, representing the Arabic word jaysh, or army.

The Iraqis discontinued use of this particular insignia in 2003 when the Iraqi Air Force ceased to exist following the American invasion. It was felt that the roundel had become identified with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Husayn.



The "new" Iraqi Air Force recommenced operations in 2004. It adopted this new roundel at that time - it is still in use today.

I was surprised to see the former green triangle insignia on these two aircraft. The C-130J-30 photo was posted on the Iraqi Air Force Twitter page today; the King Air 350ER photo was posted on July 31.

The green triangle "roundel" is not actually associated with Saddam Husayn, but I needed a catchy title, and most people do make the connection. The insignia has been in use from 1931, when the air force was established as the Royal Iraqi Air Force.

At that time, the Kingdom of Iraq was still a League of Nations mandate (which it became in 1920), administered by the United Kingdom until Iraqi independence in 1932.

The first batch of five Iraqi pilots received their aviation training at RAF Cranwell, returning to Iraq on April 22, 1931. This is recognized as the official date of the founding of the Iraqi Air Force.

Here is a photo of an Iraqi Air Force Hawker Audax reconnaissance aircraft, circa 1932. Note the green triangle insignia on the wings and fuselage.


Iraqi Hawker Audax ("Nisr")

The green triangle "roundel" has been a part of the Iraqi Air Force's 88-year history. Slightly different versions have been used on other pieces of military equipment.

When I was assigned as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces Directorate General of Military Intelligence in 1988, they provided me with a duffel bag with this logo. Arabic speakers will easily recognize the Arabic letter jim (for jaysh, or army).

Since the roundel/insignia is clearly not associated with Saddam Husayn or the Ba'ath Party, and was used on Iraqi military aircraft since before the country's independence from the United Kingdom, no one should be offended or alarmed by its use.

That said, I would expect the Iraqis to announce the re-adoption of the roundel, the national insignia. There is nothing to be ashamed of here - it is a legacy going back over 80 years.


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* A roundel is national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of different colors. Here is the roundel used on U.S. military aircraft. There are also subdued monochromatic variations for low-visibility.




August 2, 2019

Did the Iraqi Air Force revert to the Saddam-era roundel?

Top: C-130J-30 transport aircraft / Bottom: King Air 350ER reconnaissance platform

In the above photographs, taken from the Iraqi Air Force Twitter page, it appears that the Iraqis have decided to re-apply the old traditional roundel* on at least some of it military aircraft.

The Iraqi roundel used from 1931 to the end of 2003 is a green triangle with a stylized Arabic letter jim in red, with the required dot that is part of the letter in white, representing the Arabic word jaysh, or army.

The Iraqis discontinued use of this particular insignia in 2003 when the Iraqi Air Force ceased to exist following the American invasion. It was felt that the roundel had become identified with former Iraqi dictator Saddam Husayn.



The "new" Iraqi Air Force recommenced operations in 2004. It adopted this new roundel at that time - it is still in use today.

I was surprised to see the former green triangle insignia on these two aircraft. The C-130J-30 photo was posted on the Iraqi Air Force Twitter page today; the King Air 350ER photo was posted on July 31.

The green triangle "roundel" is not actually associated with Saddam Husayn, but I needed a catchy title, and most people do make the connection. The insignia has been in use from 1931, when the air force was established as the Royal Iraqi Air Force.

At that time, the Kingdom of Iraq was still a League of Nations mandate (which it became in 1920), administered by the United Kingdom until Iraqi independence in 1932.

The first batch of five Iraqi pilots received their aviation training at RAF Cranwell, returning to Iraq on April 22, 1931. This is recognized as the official date of the founding of the Iraqi Air Force.

Here is a photo of an Iraqi Air Force Hawker Audax reconnaissance aircraft, circa 1932. Note the green triangle insignia on the wings and fuselage.


Iraqi Hawker Audax ("Nisr")

The green triangle "roundel" has been a part of the Iraqi Air Force's 88-year history. Slightly different versions have been used on other pieces of military equipment.

When I was assigned as a liaison officer to the Iraqi armed forces Directorate General of Military Intelligence in 1988, they provided me with a duffel bag with this logo. Arabic speakers will easily recognize the Arabic letter jim (for jaysh, or army).

Since the roundel/insignia is clearly not associated with Saddam Husayn or the Ba'ath Party, and was used on Iraqi military aircraft since before the country's independence from the United Kingdom, no one should be offended or alarmed by its use.

That said, I would expect the Iraqis to announce the re-adoption of the roundel, the national insignia. There is nothing to be ashamed of here - it is a legacy going back over 80 years.


_________________

* A roundel is national insignia used on military aircraft, generally circular in shape and usually comprising concentric rings of different colors. Here is the roundel used on U.S. military aircraft. There are also subdued monochromatic variations for low-visibility.




July 16, 2019

Turkey, Erdoğan, the S-400 and the F-35

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan - is anyone else tiring of him?

I was asked a few questions about the Turks and the delivery of the Russian S-400 (NATO: SA-21) air defense system. My replies.

Q. The US Senate starts to discuss sanctions on Turkey, but Trump doesn't want such a move. How do you think is it possible that we can see the US impose sanctions on Turkey for this issue?

A. There are bipartisan demands in Congress for sanctions on Turkey for purchasing the Russian S-400 air defense system. The President is hoping that he can walk a fine line between economic sanctions on Turkey and just removing Turkey from the F-35 program. I am not sure he will be able to do that - there is US law that would require sanctions. He may be legally able to waive the sanctions, but he will be taking a political risk among his Republican supporters.

In any event, Turkey has to be removed from the F-35 program. That means the jets Turkey has already purchased and are located on a US Air Force base in Arizona will not be delivered to Turkey. The Turkish Air Force pilots there for training have already been restricted from access to the aircraft and its systems.

I do not believe the United States is willing to have the world's most advanced fifth-generation stealth aircraft be delivered to a country that is operating a near-state-of-the-art Russian air defense system. The risk to sensitive technology ending up in Moscow is much too high.


Q. If the US imposes sanctions, what can be the response of Turkey (within the cooperation with China (SCO))?

A. It appears that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made a conscious decision to pivot to the east - that includes better relations with what I would consider our (U.S.) adversaries and potential enemies: Russia, China, Iran, and even Pakistan. If he thinks he will be able to continue this eastern foreign policy reorientation and at the same time maintain a good relationship with the United States, I believe he is miscalculating.

The NATO alliance is important to the United States and our European allies - Turkey included, at least for now. If Erdoğan wants to remain a NATO ally, he needs to start acting like one again. Procuring an air defense system from our principal antagonist is not the act of an ally. There will be a price.


Q. Turkey invested in the F-35 project, does the US have the right to reject the sale within international law?

A. The reality of this is that the F-35 program is American technology and in the end the United States will determine where that technology is allowed to be exported. The parts of the program in Turkey will be moved to another location. They lose the business and the aircraft capabilities.



July 14, 2019

Some thoughts on Bastille Day


Many Americans are not very familiar with an alliance that was in a large way responsible for the successful conduct of the Revolutionary War.

After the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain in 1776, very few - well, no - other countries were willing to recognize the United States, let alone provide assistance in its fight against the world's premier military power. The thought that a rag-tag group of rebellious farmers could hold their own against well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led British forces was laughable.

For its own reasons, France recognized the United States in 1778 - the two countries signed a treaty which, among other provisions, promised the new country French military support in case of attack by British forces indefinitely into the future. A French fleet arrived in the United States in 1780.

French troops were present in the fight against the British until the final battle at Yorktown in 1781. If you have not walked the battlefield there, I highly recommend it - the area is well-marked and nicely interpreted. The positions of the French forces were perfectly placed to counter the British under the command of Lord Cornwallis.

I often speak about the French alliance, facetiously remarking that if it were not for the French forces at Yorktown in 1781 - both naval and army - under the command of Comte de Rochambeau, we would all be speaking English. Facetious, yes, but when no one else would help the newly formed United States, the French stepped up and sent a fleet and troops. We may owe our freedom and independence to them.

We Americans have repaid the debt, some say several times over. On July 4, 1917 - during the intense fighting that was World War I - a U.S. Army infantry battalion marched to the tomb of the Marquis de Lafayette. The French aristocrat had led American troops in the fight against the British during the Revolutionary War - it was Lafayette's troops that fought a blocking action against British forces until other American and French forces could position themselves for the final battle at Yorktown.

At the tomb, the battalion commander, Colonel Charles Stanton, uttered the now famous words that signify the bond between the two countries, "Lafayette, nous voilà" (Lafayette, we are here).

On a much less significant, but personal note. I will never forget standing in a church in rural France – not a fancy cathedral, not a tourist spot, nothing architecturally significant, just a village church. I would not have paid much attention until I spotted a well-maintained corner with a small American flag and a plaque.

I walked over and read the simple but powerful words in French and English, “In gratitude to the United States of America and in remembrance of her 56,681 sons that now and forever sleep in French soil.” An elderly parishioner sitting in a pew nearby saw me reading the inscription and asked if I was an American. I said that I was – she slowly rose, nodded at the memorial and said, “You are welcome in France.”

After 241 years, the alliance remains - American and French troops continue to serve side by side around the world.

Bon 14 juillet!