Turkey and Russia – On the Verge of War

Those reading this have probably never heard of Kızıldağ. You cannot find it on Google Maps, but it is about to become one of the most important regions in the simmering Turkish Russian conflict. Kızıldağ is a region in Northern Syria, only a mere 5 km from the Turkish border and is home to ethnic Turkmen aligned with Turkey. Today Russia and Assad’s forces retook the mountainous region back after 3 years.  

Why is this key? This region is a lynchpin for Turkey’s supply route to Syria.  Of course there are other ways over the Turkish border, but Kızıldağ has been Turkey’s forward position inside Syria. The mountainous region gives Russia and Syria command over the Turkman and access to Southern Turkey.

Yayladağı Google Maps

This ratchets up the pressure on Turkey to a whole new level.  Before they had to deal with Russian sorties and now just over 10 days since the infamous downing of the Russian SU-24, Russia is on the ground along with Syrian troops alongside Turkey’s Southern border. Turkey will not let this strategic area go so easily and will need to recover for this tactical error. Turkey is losing ground and cannot afford to allow a Shiite crescent to be formed just South of it.

Closing the Bosporous is Upon Us

If reports coming out of Turkey can be believed, the Turks have decided to hold 5 Russian cargo ships in the Black Sea instead of letting them travel through the Bosporous.  Of course this does not equal shutting the straits down to Russian sea traffic, but it sets the stage for that. Putin will not let the Bosporous be shut down. With only the Montreux treaty behind him Erdogan is playing chicken with his Northern neighbor and it does not seem that Putin is about to blink.

Putin will consider the closing of the Bosphorous an act of War. So how close are we to a far broader conflict?  Very close. The fact that NATO has situated itself in Istanbul and the Black sea in order to protect Turkey means that we are about to reach the point of no return. This coupled with the fact that Iraq is calling on Turkish troops to immediately leave Iraq just makes the situation that much more dicey.

Where Does Israel Fit In?

Israel has stayed quiet on the Russian and Turkish conflict. Israel knows there are no good guys in this. The maneuvering and cascading towards open conflict leaves Israel with few strategic choices. On one hand Russia is aligned with Iran and Syria, which presents itself as a complete security nightmare and on the other hand Turkey and NATO is at the very least complicit in boosting ISIS which is an equally scary proposition.

One thing is clear, Israel is still hitting deep into Syrian territory in order to destroy advanced weapons bound for Hezbollah. The Russians seem to be ok with this.  Perhaps Israel has in turn given Putin their word to stay neutral in the coming conflict. With Turkey and Russia nose to nose, Israel may have to soon make some uncomfortable decisions. Something that Israel’s government rather not do.

The Russians Are Coming

Experts seem to agree that the world will look back at these years as something of a great transition. The question many people have is from what kind of vantage point will we be looked back upon.  The lightning fast pace of events in Syria and the rest of our region attest to a world that is rapidly transforming once again into a multi-polar one.

With Russia’s entrance into the Syrian war on September 30th of this year, the world closed the door on what had been known as the post cold war world. From 1991 until this year the USA ruled the Middle East by itself.  The Russians were nowhere to be found and now, in a flash they seem to be everywhere.

With the above in mind and Russia’s tactical partnership with Iran, it has been surprising to many observers that Israel and Russia are not only talking and implementing a deconfliction mechanism, but seem to be furthering their partnership in relation to Syria. After all, Iran has sworn itself to Israel’s destruction and is actively using the mayhem in Syria as well as Russian air coverage to move their forces closer to Israel’s border. So why such an open working relationship with Putin’s Russia?


Russian Detente With Iran is Just Tactical

Many analysts believe that Russia, in the long term, has no interest in allowing Iran to take over the Middle East.  Russia views its relationship with Iran as a tactical necessity to prop up Assad and destroy Sunni radicals. After this task is done, the experts in this particular camp believe their paths will diverge.  

If this is so, then logic lends itself to believe Putin wants relationships and long term strategic partnerships with countries that are not only stable, but also share similar security and economic outlooks with himself, and yet will not step in his way. Israel is one of these countries.


“Israel is a Special State to Us”

In fact Putin has stated in the past his reverence for the Jewish State and his belief that it is a natural ally of his, as he considers it a special state. This is due to the 1.5 million Russians that live in Israel.  

A deeper analysis of early Zionism shows that despite the fact that Herzl is very much seen as the father of modern Zionism, the successors and thought leaders that drove the movement were really from Eastern Europe and Russia.  Their focus was on creating a Jewish National Movement within the confines of Europe and Russia, with a link to the Land of Israel. The movement, however, would push Jewish national rights within the Russian Empire. This, of course, didn’t get far as the ascendency of the Soviet Union forced these leaders to push for increased immigration to Israel.  Still, the Russian linkage to Zionism shouldn’t be forgotten, but rather be seen as a context to understanding why the current detente has more backing than an immediate need for deconfliction.

Then again, the same can be said between the millions of Christian Zionists in the West and today’s state whose rising leadership share an affinity with biblical values.


Economic Ties Between Russia Are Strong

Another fact is that Israel has a trade surplus with Russia as opposed to a deficit with the USA. In the new world of a rising East, this is meaningful to Israel’s position and future growth.  It is no secret Israel is looking East for new partners in China and India.  Russia’s trade with Israel is already very strong and will continue to grow.


Strategic Versus Tactical

As mentioned above, the maneuvers Russia is making in Syria and the broader region seem to stand in the way of Israel’s growing strength and influence.  

Yet, if one places Syria and Iran in only a short term tactical light, a strategic partnership between Israel and Russia makes full sense when connected to another burgeoning relationship; Kurdistan and Russia. Turkey’s aggression against the Kurds and funding of ISIS makes Russia, Israel, and Kurdistan natural allies against Radical Islam and an ascendant Turkey. The question remains though how much Putin and Israel can see eye to eye on the need for tamping down Putin’s tactical allies Iran and Hezbollah.



Despite some of my above assertions, we live in a world that seems to have become unhinged. We can never know which way alliances, partnerships, and working relationships will go.  

We are in a great transition period and Israel seems to be carefully moving through it.  Russia’s calculation may be different in a few days and their tactical need for Iran may outweigh the long term strategic value of partnering with Israel.  After all, Putin is a master chess player, even more than Bibi.

With that in mind, a regionally strong and globally ascendant Israel should not run to embrace a looming Russian Bear just yet. Especially a Russia that is purely pragmatic and whose leaders do not share the biblical values that have made Israel function beyond the realm of pragmatism. These values in many ways have made the dream of an Israel that went from persecuted to global leader a reality far more than the tactical pragmatism of Putin. We have to remember that as much as we want to be accepted by a strong Russia, Putin himself lives in a world of tactics and tactics can change if Mother Russia needs them to. In other words an alliance with Russia will only happen if it is good for Russia and its length will only last if it is good for Russia.

With this in mind it could very well be that the best course of action is to approach our new topsy turvy world with one giant deconfliction mechanism. Let the chips fall where they may, the roller coaster ride has only just begun.

The Truth Behind Russian Airspace Violations

With tensions rising around the region on an almost daily basis, it was reported in the Israeli news that Russians have violated Israeli airspace in order to pound rebel positions in the Eastern Golan Heights occupied by Syria.  This space is high up and is buttressed by the Golan Heights to the West and Jabal al Druze (Druze Mountain) to the East.

The fact is there have been these infractions, but when it comes down to it, the IAF (Israel Air Force) has largely ignored them. If infringing on another’s airspace is so outside the international norm then is Israel just plain weak, or is the Obama and Erdogan’s reasoning flawed?

Infractions on Airspace Sovereignty Have been Increasing

A NATO report released this past June showed an alarming increase in the rate of airspace infractions between 2014 and 2015.  NATO claims 85% of the infractions are from Russian aircraft. Russia for its part says the NATO report is vague and inconclusive.



The data seems to indicate that Russian violations, while still the majority, have lowered this year. While the proof is not in the number of infractions posed by another country, the question really is the legality of these infractions coupled with the fact that Russia seems to share the border with some very nasty locations.


Air Traffic Control Is Not Connected to Sovereignty

While Turkey certainly has what to be angry about in relation to a Russian violation of its airspace, the claim by the Obama administration and Turkey that the Russian fighter jet was shot out of the sky to protect Turkish sovereignty is erroneous.  Below is the executive summary of the International Civil Aviation Organization from March 2013. The key point is bolded at the end.

“Under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention), each State has complete and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory. While national sovereignty cannot be delegated, the responsibility for the provision of air traffic services can be delegated. And, we are reminded by Assembly Resolution A37-15 (see Appendix) that a State which delegates to another State the responsibility for providing air traffic services within airspace over its territory does so without derogation of its sovereignty.”

To critics who say that Turkey was just defending itself, the flight path clearly does not indicate a situation where the SU-24 fighter jet was intending to attack Turkey.


Turkey Is A Culprit, Just Ask Greece

While Turkey seems keen on painting its actions behind the veil of innocence, Turkey has been a repeated violator of Greece.  According to Statista, Turkey violated Greek airspace 2,244 times in 2014.  Of course this is nothing new, back in 2005 Greece complained of Turkey’s infractions on its airspace to the tune of 40 times a day. Then again none of this was stated in NATO’s report since Greece and Turkey are NATO members. Let’s put it another way, Turkey out did Russia on airspace infractions by 5 times the amount in 2014.


The Meaning Behind Israel’s Announcement

All of the above begs the question on why Israel announced or better yet leaked to the press that Russia has flown over its airspace to attack rebel and ISIS positions. Pay attention to the fact that Israel released this information the same week PM Bibi Netanyahu announced that Israel is breaking ties with European institutions over the product labeling fiasco. Bibi’s moves seem to indicate that a pivot is underway.  Both announcements are saying that Israel is no longer bound by the strategic decisions of the EU and NATO Alliance.  Where is Israel pivoting to?  Your guess is as good as mine, but whomever the leadership decides to ally themselves with next, the key component is a realization that the first ally is the Almighty above.

I See No Big Difference, Do You?

As an Armenian, whose ancestors were victims of the Armenian genocide, as a daughter of a DP (displaced person) whose father’s whole family were in forced labor camps in Stuttgart, Germany during World War II  – the topic of the behavior of the Ottoman Empire vs the modern-day Turkish regime actions are always in the back my mind and any Armenian’s mind.  

In Jan 2007, when Turkish born Armenian journalist Hrant Dink (January 2007) gets assassinated for speaking out and telling the truth…I see no big difference, do you?

More recently in October 2015, Turkish Mayor Abdullah Demirbas of the municipality of Sur in Diyarbakir, a brave man standing up for the minorities in Turkey including Armenians, has been harassed, threatened, imprisoned and became deathly ill for speaking out against injustices done to minorities (us) in Turkey, I see no big difference, do you? 

When reflecting on the recent bombing in Ankara where Kurds and minorities were rallying for their voices to be heard…. Erdogan alluded to ISIS being involved, when now we know Turkey is a backer of ISIS….I see no big difference, do you? 

Also, reading of the potential idea that Erdogan’s daughter and son being involved with ISIS and of course many other articles connecting Turkey directly to ISIS makes one ask: I see no big difference, do you? 

What is the difference between today’s Turkish regime and the Ottoman Empire?  International oversight? Turkey is a part of international coalition today so they are held accountable for their actions.  Really?  Is there any true scrutiny… except when it comes to Israel and the double standard automatically applied to every action or non-action which of most are clearly accusations & clearly distortions of the ‘campaign of young Arab muslim terror’ happening daily.

Turkey seems to autonomously make moves having the world in an unspoken grip.  Who can do what to them? Erdogan the visionary and his vision seem to be far reaching into the future with maybe a desire to become an empire again?  Can it be?  

Now, with the grave error of striking down Putin’s plane, the world sits back and watches as the first step of an economical withdrawal is made by Russia… adding insult to injury, we won’t buy from you WE WILL BUY FROM ISRAEL!!  Let’s just sit back and see what other front will be doused in Putin’s 2nd plan of retaliation attack on Turkey.  Erdogan, sit down.  Autonomous, are you??  World, I hope to see a difference, don’t you? 


The Israel Kurdistan Connection


When Bibi Netanyahu stated in June of 2014 that the Kurds “are a fighting people that has proved its political commitment, political moderation, and deserves political independence,” it surprised very few observers.  Israeli Kurdish relations have been the quiet success story of the ever growing chaotic and war-torn middle east.  The Kurds have enjoyed defacto sovereignty over Northern Iraq ever since the days of George W. Bush’s misguided adventures in state building, but nevertheless, one of the brightest points that came out of that foray is the burgeoning autonomous region of Kurdistan. Of course this is to the chagrin of Turkey and Syria (whatever is left of it), but nevertheless the Kurds are prospering despite the challenges of being a non-state actor pressed by all sides (Turkey in the North, ISIS to the South and West, and Iran to the East).

For Israel’s part, it has become clear that a stable Middle East, if there is a chance for one, revolves around the Kurds finding their long elusive independence.  Besides a civic society, independence requires economic and military capabilities to ensure survival.  This is where Israel has provided covert but necessary help.

Oil Revenues Driving Kurdish Economy

It is no secret that Northern Iraq is flush with crude oil.  This would make the autonomous Kurdish region a potentially wealthy area.  The challenge for the Kurds has been to get their oil out to the market outside of the framework of the Iraqi federal government.  An agreement was reached between the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) and the Iraqi Federal government in December of last year, which would have seen 17% of the national oil revenues go to the KRG in return for a ban on selling their oil outside the national framework. The agreement fell through shortly after that and the Kurdish Regional Government once again began to sell their oil on the black market.

The flow of Kurdish oil to the world takes an interesting direction and with it some unusual partners. The Times of Israel quotes a report in FT this past August that Israel uses a Maltese shipping company to transfer Kurdish oil from the Turkish port of Ceyhan.  The total amount purchased was 19 million barrels of Kurdish oil, worth roughly $1 billion, between May and August of this year. This would support 77% of Israel’s total energy needs. Of course the oil seems to go from Israel to markets around the World.

Given the fact that the Turks and Kurds are mortal enemies this appears to be strange.  The Kurds deny this, but the evidence from the shipping routes is clear.  Israel has become the middleman for Kurdish oil.  Of course one reason that the Turks might be looking the other way is that their newly uncovered ISIS allies are also using the avenue to get their oil out to market. Despite fierce battles between the Kurdish Peshmerga and ISIS, when it comes to oil and money, the guns are put away.

The Kurds, with Israeli help, have built a thriving oil economy.

Peshmerga is an IDF Trained Army

It is known that in the 1960’s and 1970’s the IDF worked covertly to train the Kurdish Peshmerga to fight the Iraqi government. As recently as 2010, it seems that the Israeli government had sent officials to the KRG to help train their fighters. Since 2003 the Israeli government has been exporting weapons and other military supplies to the Kurdish region and, although no official recognition of this relationship exists, it is a known fact to both governments as well the Europeans and the USA.

Why Kurdistan?

The Israeli Kurdish relationship is complex and yet should be seen in a broader regional context.  Outside the Arabs, four other immediate indigenous players exist in the Middle East: Israelis (Jews), Arameans (Marionite Christians), Druze, and the Kurds.  Before the Arab expansionism after the Mohammed’s death, these four groups made up the indigenous groups outside the Arabian peninsula (Jews actually had independent kingdoms in Yemen and Arabia).

Traditionally for Israel, there is a natural affinity, almost brotherly between these four groups. Israel’s increased strength means that there is a potential to reset the balance to what it was before the Islamic push occurred. An independent Kurdistan would go a long way to not only restoring a sense of justice to the region, but it would bring a much needed stable player in a chaotic area of the world.

Russia on the Move

Ever since Turkey shot down the Russian SU-24 fighter jet last week, Russia has increased its push into controlling Syria. It has become apparent to most analysts that the Russians have laid off the Syrian Kurdish army and have focused on decimating the rebel allies of the Turkish government.  It is not a huge stretch to figure out who Putin would most likely want to befriend next.  Let me just say Turkey will not be so amused.

Jihad and the Darkside

Shai and I discuss the current security changes in Judea and Samaria.  At the heart of the security situation is the fact that the government is not ready to fight Jihad at its core and that is with expelling those who are pushing violence.

We also cover the growing clash between Turkey and Russia and its broader context within the global arena and the conflict’s spiritual roots.

Don’t forget to check out this podcast’s sponsor: Root Source

The Last War

In today’s podcast we cover what I call the Last War.  Yesterday’s and today’s news headlines are rife with speculation that Turkey’s downing of a Russian fighter jet changed the nature of the Syrian conflict.  It brings the regional and factional struggle to a new phase and will begin to destabilize not only Syria to a far more dangerous situation, but has ramifications for Israel and the entire world. This war has the potential to clear the deck so to speak.

We also interview David Ha’Ivri about his take on the security situation and what he feels needs to be done with many of the violent Arab terrorists and their supporters.

The Army of Jihad Has Arrived

Since the attacks in Paris, much of the Western World has begun to realize that a great war has been underway and they were sleeping through it. This war between the Liberal West and Radical Islam is like no other war the World has experienced. It is not fought on traditional battlefields between armies, but rather the Army of Jihad fights everywhere. When in areas that are majority Muslim they fight with soldiers, but outside of their direct sphere of influence the Army of Jihad fights through the guise of Radical Islam. In places like Paris, where a burgeoning Muslim population exists, terror is the main weapon of choice. In these scenarios everyone is a combatant. For the Army of Jihad the woman and child of the infidel is an enemy combatant and in return their own soldiers are made up of women, children, and the old.

The West cannot understand why it is they are losing this war. They classify the heinous acts in Paris as “Terror,” which they are, but the leaders of the West fail to go deeper. Terror is really just a weapon that one army chooses to harness in a war. At the end of the day the Army of Jihad (whether that is ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al Qeida, etc.) employs any weapon that works to defeat the enemy. The West still believes this war is about uplifting the masses of Muslims from abject poverty and then they will pacify. Well that has not happened.

To understand what the Army of Jihad wants we must understand the concepts within Islam of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb (Abode of Islam and Abode of War). Dar al-Islam refers to areas of the world under the rule of Islam , literally, “the home of Islam” or “the home of submission.” Many Muslims also attach past conquests to this abode as well. That would include Spain and much of Hungary and Southeast Europe. These areas must be reconquered.

Dar al-Harb refers to the Abode of War. The inhabitants of the Dar al-Harb are called harbi as opposed to dhimmi or kufr (non-believers, pagans). These areas must be cleansed by war and reassigned under Dar al-Islam. Pay attention, Christians and Jews can live if they accept second-class citizenship. This does not refer to the West where Islam is not in control. The West, Far East, and Africa are all under Dar al-Harb because Muslims are not in control of these places.

According to Prof. Muhammad Ishaq Zahid, “Dar al-Harb (Domain of War) refers to the territory under the hegemony of unbelievers, which is on terms of active or potential belligerency with the Domain of Islam, and presumably hostile to the Muslims living in its domain.”

The above is key to understanding why the Army of Jihad, through its ideology of Radical Islam, wages war on all levels with the West in particular and the rest of the World in general.

The Army of Jihad sees the West as broken down into Dar al-Harb (after all these countries are potentially belligerent towards the lands of Dar al-Islam and where non-Muslims are in control of Muslims) and Dar al-Islam including areas under former Islamic rule like Spain, Israel, Nigeria, Hungary, the Balkans, and Bulgaria.

So why terror? Why is that a weapon so often used by the Army of Jihad? Simply put, all means must be put in the Army’s disposal to win. By enabling the attackers to see all non-combatants as really combatants there are no limits to who can be killed. Of course since Radical Islam as an ideology espouses a war where everyone of the enemy’s citizens are culpable because they strengthen the hold over Dar al-Harb and parts of Dar al-Islam they are no longer non-combatants.

Two terror attacks occurred on Friday, one in Paris and the other in Hebron Hills near Otniel. The press focused on Paris, but has failed to understand that its root really begins here in Israel. It is noted that a Red Crescent Ambulance failed to administer first aid to the victims of the terror attack in Israel. Why? Well after all these “settlers” are no longer deemed non-combatants, but rather part of the army of the “Occupation.” Men, women, and children are fair game in that case and so naturally why treat an enemy combatant in the middle of war. Furthermore, the medical crew inside the ambulance saw itself as a combatant (and after its actions it is) and by nature lent itself to helping the cause against the “Occupation.” Let me be clear here, the occupation has nothing to with Israel and politics, but rather occupation of Dar al-Islam. In that war, everything is fair game.

The faster the West understands what Israel has had to contend with for much of the last 100 years, the greater chance it has to change course and defeat the Army of Jihad. If not, Americans and Europeans will be wondering why ambulances are not stopping for their sick and wounded. By that time there is not much to be done as the Army of Jihad will have won.