Kessab on the Chessboard of International Politics


By Edmond Y. Azadian

On March 21, the occupation of the Armenian town of Kessab in Syria, by Al Nusra terrorists was simply another episode for the world media watchers. But for the 2,000 Armenian residents of the town who were evacuated to Latakia, 50 kilometers south of Kessab, it was a repeat performance of the Armenian Genocide, which had started 99 years ago.

Turkish leaders are frustrated that the first genocide could not fully accomplish its goal, allowing survivors to scatter around the world and tell their stories and thus give a black eye to Turkey, which is striving to prove to the world its democratic and human rights credentials.

One expression of the Turkish frustration is the two-decade-long blockade of Armenia, aiming for the latter’s extinction.

To complement its genocidal policy, Turkey has been using the war in neighboring Syria to settle scores with the Armenians, within its broader policy of serving Israel’s regional ambitions.

The attack on Kessab is nothing less than genocidal. The mercenaries hired, trained and fed by Turkey are modern-day barbarians whose atrocities equal those perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks and Nazis against Armenians and Jews.

Of all the American media personalities, the most conservative, Glen Beck, was so outraged that he shouted, “We are backing cannibals!”

The Armenian news media provided the detailed coverage of Kessab aggression, but except some sparse information provided by the BBC in London, Liberation in France and Russian TV RT, there was a unanimous blockade of news about Kessab; an organized silence which is tantamount to a blatant collusion with the criminals.

No one needs to be a high government official or a news analyst to figure out that the occupation of Kessab by terrorists was organized by Turkey, despite Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s denial that the news was manufactured by “evil-minded” media people.

Consider this: without Turkey’s cooperation and direct involvement, a group of mercenaries, perched on American tanks and armed with anti-aircraft rockets could not freely cross the border to invade the town of Kessab while a Turkish air force plane shot down a Syrian Mig-34, which had been trying to block the invasion.

“It looks like Turkey has deliberately brought down that Mig-34,” said a NATO source to Al-Monitor. “We doubt that there was any threat to Turkey. It looks like Turkey took down this Syrian jet to help the radical groups.”

While Turkish leaders were in blanket denial mode, a leak uncovered the entire plot. On March 27, 2014, Information Clearinghouse reported that access to YouTube had been cut off in Turkey after an explosive leak of audiotapes that appeared to show ministers talking about provoking military intervention in Syria, using the protection of the Tomb of Soleyman Shah, grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, as a pretext. This is very much in line with the modus operandi of the Turkish state, which created similar incidents in 1955 by dispatching a terrorist to Salonika, Greece, to plant a bomb at Ataturk House, to provoke the September 6 atrocities against Armenians, Greeks and Jews in Istanbul.

Of course, no one can match Turkish cynicism, when the Turkish Foreign Ministry is offering to provide loving care to 2,000 Armenians, whom it had dislodged from their homes dating back 500 years. Indeed, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has released a communiqué which says, in part, “The Turkish Foreign Ministry had notified the relevant UN bodies that ‘Syrian Armenians residing in Kessab region could be admitted in Turkey too and protection could be provided to them.’ Also, the representatives of the Armenian community were informed of the matter through official channels.”

The Kessab attack was a disaster waiting to happen and certain factors coincided and conspired in its making; the corruption-riddled Erdogan’s image needed a revamp, especially during the municipal elections in Turkey — to make or break the Islamic party’s future — that domestic bravado certainly paid off handsomely when the Turkish raid on Kessab was accompanied by the shooting down of the Syrian jet, under trumped-up charges that it had violated Turkish airspace.

Another factor was that for Davutoglu, this attack served as a reminder that Turkey was still capable of committing genocide with impunity, thus blunting the impact of the centennial.

Turkey’s relations have been improving with Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s apology to Erdogan and a package deal worked out between Turkey and Israel to compensate the victims of the Mavi Marmara incident. Thus, the ground has been paved for reviving hegemonic prospects in the Middle East through a three-way cooperation between Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

On the international scene, the US had two main reasons to prod Turkey into action. The first was driven by domestic considerations to placate the hawks at home who were clamoring for Washington to set up a no-fly zone in Syria to help the advance of terrorists against the Damascus regime. For a reluctant Obama administration, the Turkish incursion into Syrian airspace was an effective substitute to a no-fly zone, which could involve putting US personnel in harm’s way.

The second reason was of a more global nature. Despite all the rhetoric, the Crimean crisis has been a diplomatic defeat for Washington, requiring a powerful response to Russian advances in the world’s troubled regions. Therefore, Syria’s main ally, Moscow, had to sustain a defeat to compensate for its gain in Crimea. Western and Turkish surrogates succeeded in their drive to occupy Kessab on the Mediterranean, despite the presence of the Russian fleet next door in Tartous.

As far as Al-Nusra and Ahrar Al-Sham Al-Qaeda terrorists are concerned, they needed a victory after a series of defeats at the hands of the Syrian Army and Hezballah volunteers. Kessab being the closest region to Assad’s power base on the Mediterranean was considered a strategic prize.

The looting, beheadings and burning down of churches are continuing in the area, therefore no one with a straight face can claim that these Turkish surrogates are there to bring peace and democracy to Syria.

The reaction of Armenians has been weak and inadequate, primarily because a miniscule country in the Caucasus and a dispersed and disorganized diaspora are no match for the powers behind the war in Syria and the consequent attack on Kessab.

In the first place, the Armenian government has reacted very cautiously by sending a parliamentary delegation in an unofficial capacity. The news media in Armenia was caught off guard because of its endemic introverted nature and because of its general ignorance about basic facts on Diaspora Armenians. Many journalists there just found out where Kessab was and why it was important to Armenians.

The relief effort is underway to help the refugees huddled in Latakia, and Catholicos Aram I of the Great See of Cilicia has been able to mobilize all segments of the Armenian community in the region.

No similar coordination seems to be in the works in the western countries, where challenges and opportunities are great in rallying support for Kessab Armenians. It is just and proper to decry Turkey’s sinister actions but those alone do not help the victims nor do they steer the West into a different course in Syria. Appeals and letters of protest are necessary elements to sensitize the world public opinion, but they would be more effective if the entire community mobilized as one when approaching this outrageous tragedy.

Armenians have been demonstrating in front of the Turkish embassy and consular offices in Paris and Los Angeles, respectively, but that movement has to be amplified to drown out the unified message from all Turkish legations around the world.

All of a sudden, a historic Armenian region has appeared on the chessboard of world politics and we have yet to wake up and get organized for a proper response. With the flux of political tides, all Armenians the world over need to coordinate for contingency plans with the government of Armenia to be able to face similar calamities which are bound to happen again in that volatile region.