The Eastern Question(s).

In what language were the warnings to the Russian pilots issued? The Turks claim that the warnings were made in English (which I understand to be the international language of air traffic control). Still, the Department of Defense needs to release the recordings and soon.

Who cares what the President of Turkey wants? On the one hand, Erdogan has been attacking the EU through the refugee crisis. Domestically, he’s been playing the nationalist card in order to increase his own authority and re-design the constitution. First, his hostility was directed against the Kurds. Now he’s getting into air-battles with the Russians and calling on NATO to back him up. On the other hand, he’s deeply worried about the rise of a Kurdish proto-state in northern Iraq. He has legitimate reason to be worried about this danger to the future integrity of Turkey. The US attack on Iraq in 2003 looks worse and worse with the passage of time. Which is saying something.

ISIS made its spectacular gains last summer in operations against two states (Iraq and Syria) rotted by internal conflicts in which many people were estranged from their governments and the governments forces were back on their heels. Despite the bitterness in the press announcements, there is a certain congruence of policy. American policy has been to try to reduce internal strife in Iraq by evicting the Shi’ite president and getting his Shi’ite successors to tone down their anti-Sunni policies. Russia has chosen to try to reduce the internal strife in Syria by helping the Alawite government defeat their Sunni opponents. Both the Americans and the Russians are doing much the same thing, if only the Americans would see it: stop the further collapse of the front-line states opposing ISIS. The chief difference here is that the Russians have made a clear choice to back the Shi’ite side in that civil war in alliance with Iran and the government of Iraq, while the Americans are trying to straddle the Shi’ite-Sunni civil war. President Obama’s proposal to stage a new Libya in Syria—overthrowing the government, then walking away as the place burns, which is what the US did a few years ago—is not going to improve the situation. (See: Obama versus Putin.) The Russians aren’t the ones who need to get their act together.

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