[Update] The Red Line and the Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels

will expand later …

So dwarf state Lithuania is a strong partner for the US in NATO and to set policy on the Syria-Turkey border. Well done Atlantic Council Hawks.

NATO allies act to strengthen Turkey’s air defenses | Reuters | [Update-1]

NATO countries seek to reassure Ankara over the fallout of Russia’s incursions into its air space, a decision by Germany and the United States to remove their Patriot missile batteries from Turkey left other allies to fill the gap.

While the German and U.S. steps were announced weeks ago, Russia’s surprise intervention in Syria’s civil war in September has galvanized NATO countries to offer additional help to Turkey’s air force.

Spain is now the only NATO nation with Patriots in Turkey.

“We must make full use of the capabilities we have to counter threats on NATO’s southern flank,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told Reuters in Brussels during meetings with other NATO foreign ministers, as offers of ships and aircraft began to trickle in from allies. “We must support our ally Turkey,” he said.  

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Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and borders - history of Teutonic Knights  

While the Turkish air force has shown it is capable of intercepting Russian jets on bombing raids in Syria that stray into Turkish air space, ministers say sending military support to Turkey is also designed to reassure Ankara and calm tensions.

Some, including Germany and the Netherlands, want Turkey and NATO headquarters to discuss the air incursions with Russia.

“There is a necessity to talk military and military between NATO and the Russian Federation to avoid these kinds of incidents, conflicts, because they are very risky,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told reporters.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called for NATO envoys to hold a special meeting with Russia. Such meetings were suspended by NATO foreign ministers in April last year after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.    

US deploys special force to fight IS group in Iraq

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the deployment of the new “specialized expeditionary targeting force” was being carried out in coordination with Iraq’s government and would aid Iraqi government security forces and Kurdish peshmerga forces.

“These special operators will over time be able to conduct raids, free hostages, gather intelligence and capture ISIL leaders,” Carter told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, using an acronym for Islamic State. “This force will also be in a position to conduct unilateral operations into Syria.”

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi‘s office issued a statement saying it welcomed foreign assistance but Iraq’s government would need to approve any deployment of special operations forces anywhere in Iraq – a point Carter also acknowledged.

Abadi reiterated that foreign ground combat troops were not needed in Iraq, although it was unclear whether Baghdad viewed these special operations forces in that role. Powerful Iraqi Shi’ite Muslim armed groups pledged to fight any such deployment of U.S. forces to the country.

Jafaar Hussaini, a spokesman for Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of the main Shi’ite militant groups, said that any such U.S. force would become a “primary target for our group.” “We fought them before and we are ready to resume fighting,” he said.

Iraq Shiite militants little threat in Basra: US | Reuters – July 2009 |

Biden: ISIS can be defeated without US boots on the ground | The Hill – Aug. 2014 |

Vice President Biden expressed confidence that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria could be defeated without U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq, calling the militant group “far from invincible.”

In a Washington Post op-ed, Biden described the threat as a “long-term challenge” but said the United States is prepared to increase its support in the fight.  

Obama makes ISIS enemy No. 1 | The Hill – Aug. 22, 2014 |

Their comments came a day after Obama declared the group a “cancer” on the world and said the U.S. would seek “justice” against those responsible for Foley’s execution. Secretary of State John Kerry took to Twitter to vow that ISIS “must be destroyed” and “will be crushed.”

The White House on Friday avoided ruling out airstrikes against ISIS operatives in Syria, a step it has so far avoided against President Bashar Assad, who has slaughtered thousands in that country’s civil war.

“We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders,” Rhodes told reporters on Martha’s Vineyard.

The chorus of concern — and determination — from the president and his top security officials represented a clear break from when Obama famously dismissed ISIS as a “jayvee team” in a New Yorker interview earlier this year.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama told the magazine following the fall of Fallujah.

Obama to Iraq: Your Problem Now | The New Yorker – June 14, 2014 |

In his State of the Union address, in January, President Obama said, “When I took office, nearly a hundred and eighty thousand Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.” It was a boast, not an apology. The descent of Iraq into open civil war in the past week has not, to judge from his remarks on Friday, fundamentally changed that view.

He did grant that it was alarming that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, “a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria,” had made what he delicately called “significant gains” in Iraq. (That is, it has taken control of more than one city.)

He said that he wasn’t entirely surprised–things hadn’t been looking good in Iraq for a while, and we’d been giving the government there more help. “Now Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces,” he said. After all, as he put it, “Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq.”

But there were limits: “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.”

Iran’s Foreign Legion: The Role of Iraqi Shiite Militias in Syria | Washington Institute |

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