TBR News December 17, 2015

Dec 17 2015

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. December 17, 2015: “The current Spanish Fly in the political ointment of the Mid-East is Turkey. This country has been more than helpful, for money of course, to American military and intelligence activities on Russia’s borders. She has allowed the placement on her soil of missiles aimed at Russia, and  radio intercept stations and other surveillance entities .

But the Turks are not kindly peoples and presently, they are attempting to exterminate the Kurdish minority (25%) of her country because they wish to form their own country.

Turkey has also been acting as a support system for IS, the radical and vicious Sunni religious movement started by the Saudis. Looted Syrian oil was shipped to Turkey by IS members and this oil then was sold by Turkey and some of the proceeds given to IS.

As the US received most of this oil, she naturally did not want to in any way interdict this oil movement. Once the Russians began to support the legal government of Syria, they attacked all the rebels, including the oil areas and the Turkish nationals supporting IS inside Syria.

Memories are notoriously short and it is generally forgotten with what viciousness Turkey is well-known to have massacred any entity that rebels against her. I refer specifically to the notorious Armenian Holocaust of 1916, the only such Holocaust of the 20th century.

We are discussing this bloodbath below because it shows signs of returning in the form of a massacre of Kurdish peoples. But it is also, though not widely, known that the Kurdish rebels are being given large quantities of weapons and support to aid them in their quest for what American propagandists like to call ‘a movement for liberty and freedom.’ (And give us your  oil.)”

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Turkey’s Dangerous Game

Turkey’s duplicity threatens the entire region

December 15, 2015

by Philip Giraldi


Turkey borders several Middle Eastern countries that are either unstable or potentially hostile to it, sometimes both simultaneously. With a modern military of more than 600,000 underwritten by NATO membership it is regional superpower whose ability to dominate the politics of its neighbors is sometimes exercised. Turkey has a large and educated population, a vibrant diversified economy and is at the crossroads of east and west, Asia and Europe. Together with Egypt, it is truly the indispensable nation if anyone wants to seriously consider influencing developments in the Near East.

It is perhaps Turkey’s indispensability that is part of the problem, as it has given its current government a hubristic sense of entitlement that has developed into a conceit that it can be the arbiter for all its neighbors while also transforming itself into an autocracy at home. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to turn the country’s traditionally fractious party politics into one party rule with himself at the helm. In so doing he has created what some call an “illiberal democracy” where dissent is systematically repressed and elections are rigged to favor his incumbency.

Erdogan has largely destroyed his country’s independent media by imprisoning and intimidating journalists, has not hesitated to characterize protesters as “terrorists” before having them beaten and shot, has packed the military and intelligence services with his own supporters, and has hobbled the judiciary and police. In Turkey it is now a crime to “insult” a public official. The law is strictly enforced regarding Erdogan. A man was fired from his job and is facing two years in prison for comparing the president to Gollum, the character in Lord of the Rings.

As president, Erdogan was not allowed to get involved in parliamentary elections in June and October, but he instead campaigned relentlessly on behalf of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). As the margin in parliament opposing him consisted of a Kurdish Party he unilaterally restarted a civil war with the Kurds and fear-mongered recklessly before calling for a snap election, resulting in AKP’s regaining its parliamentary majority.

Erdogan has taken a largely secular republic and turned it into a state increasingly run on Islamic principles, funding religious schools, introducing religious curricula at universities, converting historic churches into mosques and also building hundreds of unneeded new mosques. He has supported legislation outlawing the drinking of alcohol in public and has instructed stewardesses on the state owned Turkish Airlines not to wear makeup. He has made religiosity a prerequisite for high office. One almost has the sense that there is nothing that he would not dare to do.

Ankara’s recent shoot down of a Russian bomber that might or might not have strayed briefly into Turkish airspace was a very bad mistake as it made clear to all concerned that the Erdogan phenomenon has a very reckless side. Turkey, to its credit, has not tried to argue that the incident was a mistake ordered by a lower level military officer and, given the sensitivity of shooting down a foreign warplane, one has to assume that the decision to do so must have originated at the very top of the government. Media reports suggest that Russian bombing of ethnically Turkish Turkmen insurgents inside Syria had inflamed opinion while the Turkish military was exasperated by repeated Russian violations of its airspace, but the premeditated and deliberate targeting of a Russian plane, which is surely what took place, would have been a high risk low gain option at the best of times. Under normal circumstances, when a plane accidentally enters someone’s airspace, military jets are scrambled to escort the intruder out, but in this case a kill order was obviously in place, a drastic step that could have easily led to a regional war or even worse if Ankara had somehow been able to convince NATO to get involved on its behalf.

Turkey shot down the Russian plane because Moscow was effective in the fight against the Syrian insurgency, to include ISIS, enabling the Syrian army to recover lost territory. As Turkey is nominally a U.S. ally in combatting ISIS going after another de facto ally would seem to be a strange choice, but it ignores the fact that Ankara has been duplicitous from the beginning in terms of its real objectives. Turkey has been reckless in allowing jihadists to travel through it both coming from Europe and returning from the battlefields of Syria. Turkey’s major strategic goals in the Syrian civil war have everything to do with striking the Kurds and removing Bashar al-Assad from power. Erdogan has no interest at all in defeating ISIS, quite the contrary.

Ankara has studiously avoided attacking ISIS because its true objective is to prevent the formation of any Kurdish State, which would in part be on a considerable piece of Turkish territory if it were fully realized. The animus being directed against Syrian President Bashar al Assad is due to the fact that Ankara believes him to be complicit in supporting anti-Turkish Kurdish rebels along the border. That means the Erdogan is using the war against ISIS as a cover for his own agenda, which is bombing the Kurds and eliminating the Syrian government as a potential supporter of dissident Turkish Kurds who might be using Syrian territory as a safe haven.

Indeed, one might reasonably go a step farther to assert that Turkey has been an ally of ISIS, supporting from the beginning radical Sunni groups that eventually came together to form the terrorist organization. When I was last in Istanbul in July 2014, ISIS supporters were seen in various Istanbul neighborhoods collecting money to support their cause. There have since that time been frequent reports of ISIS militants moving back and forth across the Syria-Turkish border without any interference from Ankara. It has been suggested that wounded militants were routinely treated in Turkish hospitals and allowed to recuperate and rearm inside Turkey. There have also been widely observed movements of weapons into Syria to arm ISIS organized by Erdogan’s government. Recently two well-known Turkish journalists were arrested for reporting on the arms movements. They face years in prison if convicted, which will surely be the case.

Turkey is also proving to be an opportunist vis-à-vis its European neighbors. It has been taking advantage of the refugee crisis, which it has helped create, and exploited legitimate fear of ISIS infiltration. Erdogan has promised to slow the human wave engulfing Europe only if the European Union comes up with 3 billion Euros to cover expenses.

The Turkish people wisely are resistant to military engagement outside Turkey’s borders so the government of Erdogan has considered desperate expedients to create a casus belli to justify waging its own particular war against the Kurds on Syrian soil. Back in 2014 it plotted with its intelligence chief Hakan Fidan to stage a false flag attack on the tomb of Turkish Sultan Suleyman Shah, which for historical reasons is located inside Syria and is guarded by Turkish soldiers. It would have meant killing fellow Turks to create an incident that would have justified massive retaliation and direct intervention in Syria.

More recently there have been a number of attacks inside Turkey that have been attributed to ISIS but which just as plausibly might be credited to the Turkish intelligence service MIT. One bombing in Ankara in October, attributed alternatively to ISIS and to Kurds, killed 102 and was particularly suspicious coming as it did shortly before elections. The various attacks were exploited to increase government pressure on the Kurdish minority and to weaken the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which is largely Kurdish. The so-called ISIS attacks also were used to create the impression to the U.S. and NATO allies that Turkey was actually in the fight against the Islamic State even though it really was not. The White House, frustrated by the Turkish inaction, was not fooled by the charade but it felt that it was in no position to contradict Erdogan.

And then there is the money aspect. Turkey has long been the principal buyer and exporter of the oil ISIS has been extracting from fields in Syria and Iraq, just as it bought Iranian petroleum when that nation was under sanction. The business is the principal source of funding for ISIS and is also an extremely profitable family enterprise for the Erdogan family. The president’s son Bilal is the principal owner of BMZ Group Denizcilik, which has tankers that move the oil to other markets, mostly in Asia but also including Israel, where the provenance of the petroleum is not an issue. A police and judicial investigation into Bilal’s activities initiated in 2013, which also included his brother Burak as well as the sons of many other prominent government officials, was halted when Erdogan intervened to fire or remove the policemen and judges involved, claiming that he was the victim of a “judicial coup.” A phone call from then Prime Minister Erdogan to his son reportedly included advice to remove all the cash from the safe at home and hide it.

Meanwhile Erdogan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak, perhaps not surprisingly Turkey’s Minister of Energy, presides over both the ISIS exports and the pipeline that illegally ships 600,000 barrels a day of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, where it is loaded on Bilal’s ships. Iraq has complained to the United Nations Security Council about the direct export of the Kurdistan oil, which violates agreements reached in December 2014 for the sale of Iraq’s petroleum. A Turkish parliamentarian Eren Erdem, who has tried to expose the fraud, commented “What a brilliant family business!” Erdem for his pains was denounced by a government newspaper as an “American puppet, Israeli agent, a supporter of the terrorist PKK and the instigator of a coup.”

Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now seeking to increase his own considerable de facto powers, has certainly become a danger to all its neighbors but mostly inflicts damage on itself. The Turkish people deserve much better. Conflict with Russia served no national interest unless one considers meddling in Syria to be a sustainable policy objective. Deliberately embroiling NATO in the premeditated shootdown of a military aircraft surely sent shock waves through both Washington and Brussels, even if both tepidly endorsed Turkey’s alleged manifestation of self-defense. Erdogan has become, internationally speaking, the proverbial loose cannon on deck. No one knows which way he will roll, but everyone has become absolutely certain that the results will be very, very damaging.

The Armenian Holocaust of 1916

The term Armenian Holocaust (also known as the Armenian Massacre) refers to the deportation and murder of Armenians by the Young Turks government in 19151916.

Before World War I the Ottoman Empire came under the Young Turks government. At first some Armenian political organizations supported the Young Turks in hopes that there would be a real change from Abdul Hamid‘s policies towards the Armenian population. There were Armenians elected to the Ottoman Parliament, where some remained throughout the ensuing world war. However they were later to be disappointed. Other parliamentarians such as Muradyan and Garo would go on to lead Armenian rebels in ethnic cleansing campaigns against Muslim and Jewish Ottoman villagers. The Young Turks feared the Armenian community, which they had believed was more sympathetic to allied powers (specifically Russia) than to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1914 Ottomans passed a new law that required all adult males up to age 45, to either be recruited in the Ottoman army or pay special fees in order to be excluded from service. Most of the Armenian recruits were later turned into road laborers and the executed. Those who escaped joined the Russians on the east.

In early 1915, simultaneously with a disastrous Ottoman defeat at the hands of Russia at Sarikamish, with the loss of over 80% of a huge military force, battalions of Russian Armenians organized the recruiting of Turkish Armenians from behind the Turkish lines. In response the Young Turk government executed 300 Armenian nationalist intellectuals, although a partisan source as Peter Balakian’s “The Burning Tigris” tells us most were imprisoned and there were even survivors. The fact that most Armenian men were also butchered in the army and many influential figures arrested and killed, places a question mark over certain arguments that Armenians organized revolts and that there was a civil war, given that Armenians were outnumbered, outmanned and outgunned. On the other hand, there were articles in the New York Times as early as November 7, 1914, days after Russia had declared war, attesting to Armenian uprisings (“ARMENIANS FIGHTING TURKS — Besieging Van—Others operating in Turkish Army’s Rear”), and accounts from Armenians themselves, such as Boghos Nubar’s 1919 letter in the Times of London stressing Armenian belligerence. In addition, there is evidence of Russian financial support, testimony from even those such as Ambassador Henry Morgenthau to the effect of “…In the early part of 1915… every Turkish city contained thousands of Armenians who had been trained as soldiers and who were supplied with rifles, pistols, and other weapons of defense,” and even accounts from Armenian newspapers hailing the rebellion. Chronology here is important and not incontestably established.

After the recruitment of most men and the arrests of certain intellectuals, widespread massacres were taking place throughout Ottoman Empire. In desperate attempts at survival, upon hearing of massacres of nearby villages, Armenians in Musa Dagh and Van organized their self defense. In Van, they handed over control of the city to advancing Russians. After waves of massacres and countermassacres, the Ottoman government ordered the deportation of over 1 million Armenians living in Anatolia to Syria and Mesopotamia though this figure has not been conclusively established. Indeed, there is another consensus this number did not exceed 700,000, and Arnold Toynbee reported in his Wellington House (British propaganda division) report of “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire” that 500,000 were alive in 1916. Although the word deportation seems pretty innocent (some would prefer the word “relocation,” as the former means banishment outside a country’s borders; Japanese-Americans, for example, were not “deported” during WWII), things were not, because the deportations themselves were a silent method of mass execution that led to the death of many of the Armenian population, by forcing them to march endlessly through desert, without food or water or enough protection from local Kurdish or Turkish bandits.

In the process several hundred thousand died in the resulting death marches from starvation, dehydration, disease or exhaustion. Several hundred thousands more were massacred by Kurdish militia and Ottoman gendarmes (while other gendarmes gave up their lives defending the Armenians), giving an estimated total under certain counts of 1,500,000 Armenians dead. Then again, the Armenians contend one million survived, and even the Patriarch Ormanian provided a pre-war population figure of 1,579,000. Sympathetic sources as Le Figaro, prompted by Armenian terrorism in 1977 France, figured only 15,000 Armenians as having died from shootings, sickness and deprivation on the march. It also must be borne in mind that of the 2.5-3 million Turkish mortality, many succumbed to the same factors as famine and disease.

Statistics of the Second Massacre

In 1896 the Ottoman government recorded 1,144,000 Armenians living in Anatolia. Professor Justin McCarthy, U.S. historian and expert in Ottoman history, whose books are published by a Turkish organization as well as prestigious university presses such as the Oxford University Press, estimated that there were 1,500,000 Armenians in Anatolia in 1912. According to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople, there were between 1,845,000 and 2,100,000 Armenians in Anatolia in 1914. Estimates range from 1,000,000 given by some Turkish sources to more than 3,500,000 given by some Armenian sources. Arnold J. Toynbee, who served as an intelligence officer during World War I, estimates there were 1,800,000 Armenians living in Anatolia in 1914. Encyclopaedia Britannica took 1,750,000 Armenians living in Anatolia as their estimate, in certain later editions. In 1911, the encyclopedia had figured 1.1 million, and Toynbee estimated less than one million in his 1915 book, “Nationalism and the War,” before his services were enlisted in Wellington House.

Primary Documents: Talaat Pasha’s Official Orders Regarding the Armenian Massacres, March 1915-January 1916 Reproduced below are official telegrams despatched by Turkish Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha authorising ongoing massacre of Armenians from March 1915 onwards.  All were signed by Talaat himself other than the first.  The first telegram is signed by the “Djemiet”, i.e. the executive committee of the ‘Young Turk’ organisation; given that Talaat was himself chairman of the organisation the telegram was necessarily issued with his authorisation.

Talaat Pasha’s Official Orders Regarding the Armenian Massacres, March 1915-January 1916

March 25th, 1915

To Djemal Bey, Delegate at Adana:

The duty of everyone is to effect on the broadest lines possible the realization of the noble project of wiping out of existence the well-known elements who for centuries have been the barrier to the empire’s progress in civilization.

We must, therefore, take upon ourselves the entire responsibility, pledging ourselves to this action no matter what happens, and always remembering how great is the sacrifice which the Government has made in entering the World War.  We must work so that the means used may lead to the desired end.

In our dispatch dated February 18th, we announced that the Djemiet has decided to uproot and annihilate the different forces which for centuries have been a hindrance; for this purpose it is forced to resort to very bloody methods.  Certainly the contemplation of these methods horrified us, but the Djemiet saw no other way of insuring the stability of its work.

Ali Riza [Note: the committee delegate at Aleppo] harshly criticised us and urged that we be merciful; such simplicity is nothing short of stupidity.  We will find a place for all those who will not cooperate with us, a place that will wring their delicate heartstrings.

Again let me remind you of the question of property left.  This is very important.  Watch its distribution with vigilance; always examine the accounts and the use made of the proceeds.


September 3rd, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We advise that you include the woman and children also in the orders which have been previously prescribed as to be applied to the males of the intended persons.  Select employees of confidence for these duties.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.

September 16th

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

You have already been advised that the Government, by order of the Djemiet, has decided to destroy completely all the indicated persons [Armenians] living in Turkey.

All who oppose this decision and command cannot remain on the official staff of the empire.

Their existence must come to an end, however tragic the means may be; and no regard must be paid to either age or sex, or to conscientious scruples.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.

November 18th, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

It appears, from the interventions which have recently been made by the American Ambassador [Note: Mr. Morgenthau] at Constantinople on behalf of his Government, that the American Consuls are obtaining information by some secret means.  They remain unconvinced, despite our assurance that the deportations will be accomplished in safety and comfort.

Be careful that events which attract attention shall not occur in connection with those who are near cities and other centres.  In view of our present policy, it is most important that foreigners who are in those parts shall be convinced that the expulsion of the Armenians is in reality only deportation.

Therefore it is necessary that a show of gentle dealing shall be made for a while, and the usual measures be taken in suitable places.

All persons who have given information to the contrary shall be arrested and handed over to the military authorities for trial by court-martial.  This order is recommended as very important.


December 11th, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We are informed that some correspondents of Armenian journals are acquiring photographs and letters which depict tragic events, and these they give to the American Consul at Aleppo.

Dangerous people of this kind must be arrested and suppressed.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.

December 29th, 1915

To the Prefecture of Aleppo:

We are informed that foreign officers are finding along the roads the corpses of the indicated persons, and are photographing them.

Have these corpses buried at once and do not allow them to be left near the roads.

This order is recommended as very important.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.


January 15th, 1916

To the Government of Aleppo:

We are informed that certain orphanages which have opened also admitted the children of the Armenians.

Should this be done through ignorance of our real purpose, or because of contempt of it, the Government will view the feeding of such children or any effort to prolong their lives as an act completely opposite to its purpose, since it regards the survival of these children as detrimental.

I recommend the orphanages not to receive such children; and no attempts are to be made to establish special orphanages for them.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.


From the Ministry of the Interior to the Governor of Aleppo:

Only those orphans who cannot remember the terrors to which their parents have been subjected must be collected and kept.

Send the rest away with the caravans.

Minister of the Interior, TALAAT.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. III, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

1875 December 1

By order of the Turkish government, the Armenian market district at Van is destroyed by fire with great loss to Armenian property, goods, and businesses.

1878 Russia victorious in Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. Russo-Turkish Treaty of San Stefano (February 19, 1878) provides for protection and reforms for Armenians. Great Britain negotiates a secret Cyprus Convention with Turkey (June 1978) to allow British to establish bases on Cyprus and to administer Cyprus. In return, Britain insists Russo-Turkish issues be decided, instead, by an international conference. The resulting Congress of Berlin (June 1978) replaces the protective measures of San Stefano under Article 16 with unsatisfactory and ineffective provisions for Armenian people under Article 61, and returns Garin (Erzerum) to Turkey. Russia retains Kars and Ardahan.


Armenian performances are forbidden in Constantinople. The urban Armenian population of Garin and Arabkir come out against the government.

1880 August

By special order of the Turkish government, the word “Armenia” is forbidden for use in official documents.

1884 June

Armenians “rebel” in Zeitun against oppressive Turkish taxes.


The Turkish government divides Western Armenia administratively into separate vilayets of Erzerum, Garin, Kharput, Diarbekir, Dersim, Bitlis (Baghesh), Van, Hekyari and Sivas (Sebastia).


The Turkish government orders that all Armenian periodicals and magazines in Constantinople and Western Armenia be discontinued.

1890 June 15

An Armenian demonstration in the district of Gum-Gapu in Constantinople is drowned in Armenian blood.

1890 June 18-20

Alleging provocative actions by Armenians, Turkish armed forces and Turkish mobs attack Armenians in Garin (Erzerum). Hundreds of Armenians are killed.

1891 January

The Armenians of Vardenis in Taron are robbed by Turks andtheir village is destroyed.


Sultan Abdul Hamid II, known as the Bloody Sultan, suspends the Armenian National Constitution, and also discontinues the national parliament in Constantinople, which includes some Armenian representatives.

1894 August 20-27

Sassun’s Gelie-guzan village massacre, known as the “Gelie-guzan Hole Carnage” takes place. Here, Turks inaugurate the system of slaughtering unarmed people, which later was the prototype for Hitler’s concentration camps.

1894 August 25-30

Sassun’s Gebin Mount carnage is inflicted when the Turkish army manages to force Armenian women, children and old men to leave Andok for the forest on the bottom of mountain. The army ignites the forest and burns the Armenians alive. Note: This is a harbinger of the extermination of future victims by burning them alive in stables and other large storage facilities.

1894 August

10,000 Armenians are killed and 74 Armenian villages are destroyed in Sassun.

1894 August-October

Armenians refuse to pay illegal taxes to Kurdish irregular forces in Sassun. Unrest in the vilayet of Bitlis, near Mush. Revolt in Sassun. Attempted uprising against Kurdish oppression is followed by massacres in Sassun. A joint report published on July 28, 1895 by the Commission of Inquiry created by the initiative of the Great Powers, estimates the number of victims at 5,000.

1895 May 11

Governments of six countries present the Turkish Sultan Abdul Hamid II a special note describing the disastrous conditions of Armenia and demand the Turkish government to carry out improvements. 

1895 August


Joint memorandum presented by Britain, France and Russia to the Sultan, pointing out the disastrous situation in the Armenian provinces and urging him to proceed with the reforms. The Imperial Turkish Government replies in August 1895 and promises to carry out the reforms specified in Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin (1978).

1895 September 30

Carnage of Armenians in Baberd at the hands of the Turks.

1895 September 30, October

In the Bab Ali section of Constantinople, Armenians carry out a peaceful demonstration. The Turks set upon killing Armenians. 2000 Armenians die. Protests by the Great Powers by joint note from three ambassadors (French, British and Russian) on October 13-15 demand reforms. On October 31 a decree is issued, providing for reforms.

1895 October 5

Mass obliteration of Armenians takes place in Trebizond and its villages. Armenians of Sassun share the same fate.

1895 October 7

Armenians of Derjan province are slaughtered by the Turks.

1895 October 8

Massacres of Armenians by Turks begin in the vilayet of Trebizond as confirmed by the report of Gillieres, the French Consul in Trebizond.

1895 October 9

The carnage of Armenians at Erzingan and Kamakh by the Turks.

1895 October 10

In Kghi province more than 1000 Armenians are killed, and dozens of villages destroyed. In Bitlis, 102 villages are destroyed. On the same day the carnage of Armenians at Charsanjak and in its villages begins, taking almost 700 lives. In Balu, the body count of Armenian victims reaches 1200, Arabkir – 2800, Torgom – 500

1895 October 13

Most of the Armenians in Baghesh are killed by the Turks.

1895 October 16

Urfa in Yedesia is attacked and in spite of persistent defense, the Turkish army and the Turkish mob succeed in slaying around 10,000 Armenians. On the same day, the Turks inflict similiar carnage in Shapin-Garahisar. 2000 Armenians are slain in the town and 3000 in 30 villages.

1895 October 21

The Armenian population in Erzingan, a town of Erzerum vilayet, is slaughtered by the Turks. 1000 Armenians are killed.

1895 October 23

3000 Armenians of Malatia are killed. 1000 houses are burned.

1895 October 25

Massacres follow in Bitlis, in the vilayet of Bitlis.

1895 October 26

Almost the entire Armenian population of Kharput is slaughtered by the Turks. The body count exceeds 4000. Mass massacres take place in Bayburd, vilayet of Erzerum. 165 villages are destroyed.

1895 October 27-28

Massacres in Urfa, vilayet of Aleppo, the first by the Hamidie Kurdish regiments organized by the Turks for this purpose, confirmed by the report of the British consul, Fitzmaurice, dated March 16, 1896.

1895 October 30

Massacres in Erzerum, vilayet of Erzerum. 400 killed by the Turkish mob and soldiers.

1895 October 31

Massacres occur in Garin and in the vilayet of Erzerum. Around 2000 Armenians are killed; 43 villages are destroyed.

1895 October Organized massacres of Armenians by Turks in Constantinople and Trebizond.

1895 November 1

Diarbekir carnage begins. 1000 Armenians are killed in the town and 30,000 more in the villages. 119 villages are destroyed. Massacres in Arabkir, vilayet of Kharput. 2,800 dead. Massacres in Diarbekir, vilayet of Diarbekir. Confirmed by a telegram of Meyrier, the French consul in Diarbekir, sent on November 3 to P. Cambon, the French ambassador in Constantinople. He estimates incorrectly: 5000 dead. 119 villages are pillaged and set on fire.

1895 November 3

Almost the whole Armenian population in Marzvan, around 700 people, are killed by the Turks.

1895 November 4

3,800 killed in the vilayet of Kharput by the Turks.

1895 November 10

Systematic Turkish army attacks on Van take place. The city of Van, in the vilayet of Van, is attacked by the Turkish Hamidie forces. Forced conversions to Islam in Kharput, vilayet of Kharput.

1895 November 11

Turkish army attacks the town of Balu, in the vilayet of Kharput. It results in 1680 Armenian deaths. Turkey proclaims a holy war (Djihad).

1895 November 12

Turks kill 1,500 Armenians in the vilayet of Sivas, and an equal number in Gurun.

1895 November 15-17

Armies of Sultan destroy Aintab in the vilayet of Aleppo and kill 1500 Armenians.

1895 November 18

Massacres in Marash, vilayet of Aleppo. 1,000 Armenians are killed.

1895 November 18-20

160 villages around the city of Van are robbed and pillaged.

1895 November 28

In Zklus, 200 Armenians are killed; in Amasia, 100; and in Aleppo, 1000.

1895 December

Armenians of the villages of Norduz, Hayots Dzor, Gavash and Karchevan in the vilayet of Bitlis are set upon by fire and sword. 100 villages are destroyed. On December 28 in the town of Ourfa (Yedesia), 8000 Armenians are slaughtered. 100 villages around Mush, vilayet of Bitlis, are destroyed.

1895 December 28

A battalion of Turkish-led Hamidie forces, proceeding from Aleppo, encircles the town of Urfa. Massacres on the following day kill 8,000 Armenians. This is confirmed by the above-mentioned report of the British consul, Fitzmaurice, dated March 16, 1896, as well as by the French consul.

Global Estimates

Most of the figures mentioned through 1895 come to a total of 150,000 to 300,000 dead, to which must be added some 150,000 forced conversions and some 100,000 emigrants forced to flee. The report written by the agents of the European Powers estimate 28,000 killed just in the localities where representatives of foreign nations were present.

1896 June 8-15

The population of Van and nearby villages is destroyed. The major Armenian population of Sgherdi is decimated and survivors are forcibly converted to Islam. In 40 villages of Khizan, 400 people, and in 20 villages of Mamrzank 160 people are slain, and the others are converted to Islam forcibly. All Armenian villages of Shatakh are devastated and turned to ruins. 11 villages of Gyumushkhane are destroyed and most of their population slain.

1896  Middle of June

Turks break their vow and near St. Bartholemew Church, attack Armenians in Van seeking to defend themselves, murdering 1500 people. The survivors flee to Persia.

1896 August 26

A group of Armenian militants of the Dashnak Party occupies the Ottoman Bank in Constantinople in order to gain the attention of foreign powers to the oppression of the Armenians. Achieving their purpose, they leave the bank in the evening and are picked up by boat and taken to France. Much attention is aroused in the Western capitals. However, this action results in a massacre in Constantinople, on August 27, killing approximately 7,000 Armenian victims.

1896 August 28

Representatives of the Great Powers send a telegram of protest to the Ottoman authorities.

1896 September 2

Armenian population of Agn is destroyed. Half the houses in the city are burned. Joint verbal note of protest issued by the Great Powers, accusing the Sublime Porte directly.

1896 September 3

In the city of Mush and its villages, 250 Armenians are killed by the Turks.

1896 November 10

In Agn’s Binkaya village, 250 Armenians are killed. Of the 250 houses there, only 12 houses remain standing.


300,000 Armenians become the victims of the carnages inflicted by the Turks. In addition, almost as many flee the country.

1900 August

Mothers and children are cut down by sword in Sassun’s Spaghanak villages by sudden attacks late at night.

1904 May

7500 Armenians are slain in Sassun by the Turks.

1908 April 14

Violent outbreaks in Adana (in Cilicia) and in near-by towns, in an attempted counter-revolution by Turks supporting the Sultan. They are soon squelched.

1908 July

Military coup in Salonica by the Young Turk movement (the Union and Progress Party). There begins a brief period of collaboration among Turks, Armenians and other minorities. The subsequent massacres in Adana do not shake this new-found cooperation.

1908 July 24

The Ottoman Constitution is proclaimed.

1909 April 15-25

30,000 Armenians are slaughtered in Adana, Tarsus and other towns of Cilicia. The Turkish army bears direct responsibility, but the Armenian community is willing to consider it as an isolated incident, and to continue to trust the Young Turks until further events prove otherwise.

1913 January 29

In Turkey, the triumvirate of Enver, Talaat and Jemal Pasha heads the government.

1914 February 8

Under the combined influence of Russia and Great Britain, the Turkish authorities sign the Armenian Reform Project and agree to take certain measures in favor of the Armenian population.The Dutch, Westemeck, and the Norwegian, Hoft, are appointed as General Inspectors of the Armenian provinces, but they are rendered ineffective. The promised measures are not implemented.

1914– beginning of 1915

The Armenian Patriarchate in Constantinople estimates the Armenian population in Turkey at 2,100,000. World War I begins July 1914. Loyally, the Armenians participate in the war effort. Mobilization of the entire population, including Armenians, is decreed and the Armenians of Turkey take part in the war on the Caucasian and Western fronts. Immediately preceding the war, the Armenian population is neutral because a number of Armenians in Russia is mobilized on the Russian side, and a natural desire to avoid a fratricidal war. Some Armenian presence in the Russian Army will become an argument used by the Turkish authorities in their attempt to justify the measures they took later to destroy the Armenian people.

1915 January

Enver is disastrously defeated in Sarikamish at the hands of Russian troops, marking a failure of his Pan-Turanian plans. The Turkish authorities decree the demobilization and disarmament of the Armenians. The Armenians are grouped into small work battalions used for garbage details and similar tasks. The Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army, under the pretext of work details, are marched and killed in cold blood or used for target practice.

1915 January 13

A.F. Kerensky, a member of the National Council of Russia and later briefly to be the leader of Russia, in a report, describes the astounding plight of Armenian refugees. He declares that when the Turkish attacks on Russian territory began, rivers of Armenian refugees stretched to the North… “That was not an escape, it was the great demise of a whole nation”.

1915 February 13

Two Armenian deputies of the Ottoman Assembly submit a note concerning the massacres and executions of several such battalions.

1915 February 26 War Minister Enver convenes 75 top ranking Ittihadists. This secret meeting finalizes the details of the plan to carry out a holocaust of the Armenians. Evidence indicates that the decision to carry out the Holocaust was made some years earlier.

1915 April 8

The process of removing the Armenian population of Zeitun commences. Taking advantage of the defense staged by a group of young Armenians, the Turkish army invades Zeitun, with the assistance of local Turks, to re-establish control. The mass deportation and massacres of Armenian inhabitants of the entire region is immediately organized. This mountainous region had always preserved a quasi-autonomy.

1915 April 15

Talaat, Enver and Nazem send a secret order to the local governments for the removal and extermination of Armenians in Turkey.

1915 April 15-18

While the Armenian population of Van is fleeing to Russia because of the evacuation of the Russian army, the Turkish forces attack villages of the vilayet. They destroy 80 villages and slay 24,000 Armenians in the vilayet and city of Van. The Turks accuse the Armenians of collaboration with the Russian troops.

1915 April 20

At the news of the massacres, the mostly Armenian population of Van takes to the barricades. The Turkish authorities will also use this incident on the Caucasian front and the resistance of the Armenians as a pretext to justify the measures of deportation (and massacre) they are about to inflict.

1915 April 20- May 19

The remaining Armenians of Van try to defend themselves from the overwhelming Turkish forces.

1915 April 24

800 Armenian leaders, writers and intellectuals are arrested in Constantinople and murdered. The barbaric Armenian holocaust begins. This is a most important date for all Armenians today. It represents the date for commemorating the Armenian Holocaust each year throughout the world. 

1915 April 27-30

The forced removal and deportation of Dyurt Yol’s Armenian population begins.

1915 May 15

Turkish forces begin the process of removal and deportation of the Armenian population from villages in the vilayet of Erzerum.

1915 May 16

Law of May 16, 1915 is enacted with “instructions pertaining to property and real estate abandoned by the deported Armenians, consequences of the war and unusual political circumstances”. This law provides for the installation of Turkish refugees in the homes and on the lands belonging to the Armenians.

1915 May 24

The governments of England, France and Russia jointly warn the Turkish government publicly that “They will hold personally responsible… all members of the Ottoman government and those of their agents who are implicated in such massacres”. This is the first time in the international arena three large countries publicly characterize the Turkish actions against Armenians as crimes against “humanity and civilization” for which “personal responsibility is laid on every member of the Turkish government who participated in the carnages”. The communique of the Allied Powers of the Entente, published by the Havas news agency, accuses the Ottoman Turkish government directly for the massacres against the Armenian population.

1915 May 27

The law of May 27, 1915 is enacted concerning the “displacement of suspected persons.” This law empowers army officers to relocate populations upon the simple suspicion of treason or for military reasons.

1915 June 1

12,000 Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army are massacred in Balu, vilayet of Diarbekir.

1915 June 10 A supplementary law is enacted regarding reporting property of deportees. See entry under September 26 as to supplementary law adopted September 26, 1915.

1915 June 12 – July 3

Turkish armies slay or remove Armenians of Shapin Garahisar, who tried to defend themselves.

1915 June 15

21 leaders of the Hnchukyan Party are hanged publicly in Constantinople.

1915 June 24

Massacres and deportations of the inhabitants of Shabin Karahissar begin.

1915 June 25

The removal and deportation of the Armenians of the city of Sivas begin.

1915 June 26

The removal of the Armenian population of Kharput and Trebizond vilayets are commenced by the Turkish army. Photocopy of the original deportation order (written in old Turkish with Arabic characters) is to be found in the Archives of the United States State Department in Washington, DC.

1915 June 27

Mass removals and deportations of Armenians begin in Samsun.

1915 July 1

Assyrians and Armenians are deported from Medzpin (Nisibe), Tel-Ermen (Hill of the Armenians), Bitlis, vilayet of Bitlis, Mardin and surrounding regions.

1915 July 3

The massacre begins of the Armenian population of Mush, Sassun and Bitlis vilayets begins.

1915 July 10

The Armenian population of Malatia is deported.

1915 July 13

Self-defense of Musa mountain begins. The heroic band of Armenians is later vividly depicted in the best-selling novel “Forty Days of Musa Dagh” by Franz Werfel. 

1915 July 27

The Armenian population of Cilicia and Antioch is deported.

1915 July 28

The removal of the Armenian population of the Cilician cities, Aintab and Qilise, is carried out. In Great Britain’s House of Lords, in answer to Viscount James Bryce’s question concerning the slaughter of Christians in Armenia, the president of the Military Council, Lord Grew declares that the information received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that the Turkish crimes are increasing both in numbers and in violence. Lord Grew declares that “all those mass carnages and violent removals are engaged under the pretext of forced transmigration”.

1915 July 29 Deportations begin from Aintab and Kilisse, in Cilicia.

1915 July 30

Deportations begin from Suedia, in Cilicia.

1915 August 16

Deportations begin from Marash in Cilicia and Konia in western Asia Minor.

1915 August 10- 19

Removal and deportations begin of Armenians from Smyrna (Nikodemia), Brusa, Bartizak, Adabazar and surrounding areas.

1915 August 19

Removal and deportation begin of Armenian population of Urfa in Yedesia.

1915 September 15

Turkey’s Minister of Interior, Talaat Pasha, cables to the Aleppo Prefecture the confirmation of the previously transmitted order for removal of Armenians and their final elimination. The original of this cable is reproduced in the book of A. Andonian “The Memoirs of Naim Bey (The Holocaust of the Armenians by the Turks). With a New Preface by the Armenian Historical Association”, Documentary Series, Vol. I, Great Britain, Reprint 1964, 83 pp. Exhibit No. 3 at the trial of Soghomon Tehlirian, authenticated by the German Court. (At a trial before a Berlin court in 1921, following the assassination of Talaat by Tehlirian, Tehlirian was acquitted by the Court because of the circumstances.)

1915 September 15

Rashid, Governor of Diarbekir, sends cable to Talaat, the Minister of the Interior, announcing that the number of Armenians “expelled” from Diarbekir has reached 120,000.

1915 September 26

“Provisional law concerning the property, debts and receivables of persons relocated elsewhere” is adopted. This law provides for the liquidation of debts and receivables of displaced persons (Armenians). A special commission is “charged” with holding the proceeds of sales in escrow. The German Foreign Office summarized this law as compressed to provide “1. All goods of the Armenians are confiscated. 2. The governments will cash in the credits of the deportees and will repay (will not repay) their debts”.

1915 September 30 and October 7

In Bern, Switzerland, at its Central Hall, public meetings are held deploring the ongoing Armenian tragedy.

1915 October

110 famous German and Italian civilians in Switzerland, including scientists, journalists and public figures publish “The Call” both in French and German, in defense of the Armenian people.

Note As in Switzerland, in many other places all over the world, there were many, many public meetings of protest and countless public statements by various heads of state and other officials condemning the Turkish massacres and deportations of the Armenians, threatening the Turks responsible with appropriate punishment and promising justice and territorial and/or monetary restitution for the Armenians. The statements and meetings referred to in this chronology are but a tiny sample.

1915 October 6

In Great Britain’s House of Lords, Lord James Bryce denounces the Turkish murderous campaign against the Armenians. He declares the time has passed when any harm could be caused by public statements and the more complete the statements, the more good it may bring, because it remains the only chance of preventing these carnages from continuing, if they are not over yet. It is a pity, he says, that his information from several sources indicates that the number of victims is very large. It is considered to be 800,000 as of then. He states that there is no commandment in Islam that can justify such slaughters. He urges every effort be made to send help for the poor, wretched survivors, hundreds of which are dying of starvation and disease. “That is all that we can do now in England and let us do it and do it swiftly”.

1915 October 12

In Great Britain’s House of Commons, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Edward Grey declares “All the information concerning the carnages of Armenians in Turkey became public. Only two feelings can describe it – horror and disturbance.”

1915 November 16

As the government spokesman for questions from members of the House of Commons, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lord R. Cecil declares that Turkey intended not to punish the Armenian race, but to destroy it. That was the only goal.

1915 November 18

In Paris at the “American Club”, a public meeting urges help to alleviate the Armenian suffering.

1915 December 12

Talaat, Minister of the Interior, sends a telegram to the Prefecture of Aleppo. He states that in view of the rather compassionate attitude of certain valis with respect to orphans, the order is given that the orphans be sent away with the caravans, with the exception of the very young ones unable to remember the atrocities. The original cable is reproduced in said Andonian’s book “The Memoirs of Naim Bey (The Holocaust of the Armenians by the Turks)”.

1916 January 11

In Germany’s Reichstag, deputy Karl Libknecht, an international socialist figure, directs a question to the Vice Chancellor, as to whether he is aware that in Turkey, their ally, thousands of Armenian citizens have been removed from their homes and exterminated. He demands that the German government forbid the Turks from further terrifying actions against the remaining Armenian population.

1916 February 9

The United States Senate votes (with the concurrence of  the House of Representatives) to ask the President of the United States of America to set a special day when citizens of this country can help Armenians with financial support, considering that many of them, being in the country that was at war, were forced to leave their houses and belongings without any opportunity to care even for their primal needs, are afflicted with hunger, disease and untold sufferings. President Wilson designates August 21 and August 22 for making contributions for the suffering Armenians.

1916 February 9

In the Russian Duma, Minister of Foreign Affairs S.D. Sazonov declares “I have mentioned before about the awful sufferings of that wretched race. Under the tacit assent of its ally, Germany, the Turks hoped to bring alive their desire to exterminate the entire Armenian race…”

1916 March 7

Talaat, Minister of the Interior, sends a cable to the Aleppo Prefecture, ordering the extermination of children at military installations.

1916 April 9

“Homage to Armenia” gathering takes place in Paris’ Sorbonne University, attracting thousands of people. Speaking at that gathering, France’s Minister of Education declares that “For more than a year carnages paint Armenia red in blood and have surpassed other crimes in scale and in violence. Germany can be proud of its horrid deeds”. At the same program, the opening words of the president of the National Council of France, Paul Deshnanel, firmly condemns the slaughter of Armenians at the hands of the Turkish executioners.

1916 July 29

“France-Armenia” company is formed in Paris, members of which are ministers of the French government, senators, deputies, Georges Clemenceau, writer Anatole France and other dignitaries.

1916 August 19

Decree abolishes the national Armenian constitution of 1863, in violation of Article 61 of the Treaty of Berlin concerning religious freedom.

1916 November 16

In Berlin’s Missionary Union, Doctor Karl Accenfeld sends a statement to the German Chancellor Bettman-Holveg in which he asserts “In neutral countries large accusations are spreading against Germany about not only calmly watching, but also helping to realize the extinction of a whole Christian race”. Note: In the bibliography in this web-site is listed a volume by Dadrian dealing with the German involvement.

1917 January 1

By a special decree/law the government of Turkey condemns the 1978 Treaty of Berlin and especially Article 61.

1917 March 29

In Stockholm, a large meeting takes place dedicated to repudiation of the mass murder of Armenians. The members of the meeting deplore the insensitivity of Sweden towards Armenians.

1917 November 6

In Great Britain’s House of Commons, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arthur Balfour declares “Do we need to ignore that Armenia should be given back, as respected gentlemen wish to give it back with their formula, under the reign of Turkey. I don’t want to ruin the Turkish community – consisting of Turks, in Turkish fitting style, commanding the Turks. No, our constant goal is the emancipation of non-Turks from Turkish governance. What is imperialistic in wishing to see Poland independent, Armenia liberated from Turks, Alsace Lorraine rejoined to France, to see Italy having its own population, language, area and civilization”.

1917 December 4

Speaking in the Congress of the United States, President Wilson states “We hope to provide the right and opportunity for people living in the Turkish Empire to make their lives safe and their fate secure from aggression and injustice, orders of foreign courts and parties.

1918 January 6

In the name of the “Germano – Armenian community”, Paul Rorbach, Edward Kir and Martin Rade urge the government of Germany to promote autonomy for Armenia.

1918 January 8

President Wilson’s Declaration of Fourteen Points is published. The 12th Point extends promise to the Armenians of security of life and an unmolested opportunity for autonomous development.

1918 March

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk is signed between Russia and Turkey after Russia’s withdrawal brought about by the Russian Revolution. Turkish invasion of Russian Armenia causes more killings of Armenians including those fleeing from Turkish Armenia. Fighting continues on the Caucasian front involving Armenian units.


The killing of large numbers of Armenians who lived within the Ottoman Empire and its successor Turkish state in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From 1915 to 1920, more than a million Armenians died as the result of executions, massacres, starvation, and other repressive measures, and many fled to the United States and other countries.

The most recent move by the Turkish government in this regard was for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the head of the main opposition party Deniz Baykal to hold a press conference in March 2005 inviting Armenian historians to meet with historians from Turkey to find out what happened, and called on Armenia to open its archives. This was met with a response from the Armenian Foreign minister that the world already knew what happened, and that Armenia’s archives were always open.

Turkey has never established diplomatic relations with Armenia and has closed its land borders with Armenia. Armenia has declared repeatedly it is ready for relations and an open border without preconditions but denied to withdraw its own troops from occupied Azerbeidzan. Turkey claims that it would support the occupation of Nagorno-Karabagh by opening his borders.

New confidence in Damascus as Russian strikes turn the tide

December 16, 2015

by Lyse Doucet

BBC News

You notice it on the road to Damascus.

New posters of President Bashar al-Assad hang from the centre of soaring archways that welcome you into Syria and replace the once-fading images all along this route from the border with Lebanon.

You notice it on the main highway, the strategic artery that runs to the city of Homs and on to the Mediterranean coast. Military checkpoints have been bolstered and brightened by fresh coats of paint in the black white and red tricolour of Syria’s flag.

And you sense it in the comments of President Assad’s supporters – the new signs of confidence.

“The problem is not with the Syrian government,” insists presidential adviser Dr Bouthaina Shaaban when I ask about the new international diplomacy gathering pace to find a negotiated way out of this war.

“The problem is with those who are truly targeting Syria. “

Nearly five years into a devastating conflict that has shattered large parts of Syria into a patchwork of rebel strongholds, there’s an atmosphere of greater certainty in political and military circles in Damascus.

‘We’re glad the Russians are here’

Never mind that the economy is bad, and getting worse, that a spent Syrian army’s accelerated recruitment drive is causing many young men to flee, and that a growing number of middle class professionals have left or are thinking of it.

“We’re glad the Russians are here,” is a phrase I heard time and again in the corridors of power.

The September surprise of Russia’s sudden entry into the air campaign against the so-called Islamic State (IS), followed by the continuing despatch of advanced weaponry and Russian forces described as military advisors, have started to ease some of the pressure on Syria’s army on key front lines.

It’s been clear from the pattern of Russia’s airstrikes that its definition of “targeting terrorists” extends beyond IS to other groups threatening President’s Assad’s position in strategic areas, including around Damascus.

“What kind of weaponry have they given you?’ I ask an official in the Ministry of Defence.

“Everything,” he says with a big broad smile, which underlines that the biggest gift of all was the very public signal that Russia is standing with them.

“They are more confident at the moment because they see the situation unfolding to their advantage,” remarks a European diplomat who visits Damascus.

He points to Turkey’s downing of a Russian military plane as another element that strengthens their narrative.

A ‘summons’ from Moscow

But the political price tag for Russia’s extensive and expensive military backing remains unclear.

Much attention has focused on President Assad’s very rare foreign visit which took him to Moscow in October – every photograph has been scrutinised for telltale signs of the nature of this increasingly critical relationship.

“He was told ‘Don’t say no to everything’,” a Western official involved in the new diplomatic moves tells me.

“Putin made it clear there had to be a more constructive approach because military support was not endless.”

Syrian officials have a different take on a meeting Western and Arab diplomats describe as a “summoning”.

“He came back very pleased,” is how a Syrian with close ties to the president’s inner circle put it.

Afghan lessons

What seems clear is Moscow does not want its Syrian engagement to become “another Afghanistan” – the kind of long costly engagement after its 1979 Afghan invasion.

But among the lessons there is that once Moscow visibly withdrew backing for its ally President Najibullah, the system began to crumble from within, pressure mounted from outside and Kabul collapsed.

Avoiding precipitous collapse in Damascus, in a region already fraught with all too much chaos and crisis, is the only goal that now unites many sides in this conflict.

It has created small shifts in the position of Western and Arab states whose firm stance has long been simply “Assad must go”.

“The political process can start with Assad but must end without him,” is the new phrase I heard on a recent visit to Riyadh. But Saudi Arabia wants concrete proof that this is how any negotiations will finish, before they begin. For the opposition, it’s the Syrian leader’s presence that’s fuelling this war, including the rise of IS.

But in Damascus, the narrative hasn’t shifted.

“We don’t care what the West says,” declares Minister of Information Omran Zoubi who calls those demanding President Assad’s departure “delusional”.

Even officials who don’t speak publicly for the president say in private his exit is not on the cards.

“He’s the cement holding all the security and intelligence agencies together,” says one well-connected businessman. “It’s in everyone’s interest that he stays.”

‘No negotiation with terrorists’

The looming question is still who or what will replace him at a time when minds in many capitals are focused on the growing threat from IS.

A senior Russian official told me last month that, in an effort to move this long deadlocked process forward, the word “transition” was being downplayed, as well as the president’s future role.

That is what emerged from the second round of the “Vienna process” which brings together all the main outside players – both enemies and allies of President Assad – around the same table for the first time.

Last week’s opposition meeting in Riyadh was part of new efforts to forge a more cohesive leadership to attend Syria talks set to take place as early as he first week of January.

But the inclusion of Islamist forces such as Ahrar al-Sham only sharpened the derisory reply from Damascus. President Assad immediately retorted that he would not “negotiate with terrorists”. That riposte resonates in Russia, which is calling for a clearer delineation of who is who in the opposition.

Sceptical but weary

There’s talk in Damascus of more military offensives, now backed to the hilt by its allies. There’s a focus on local ceasefires, such as the one in the last rebel-held district of Homs last week, which are closer to surrenders on the government’s own terms. And there are many opposition groups who also still vow to fight to the end.

“How can anyone be blamed for scepticism?” a UN official asks. “But the alternative is another five years of destructive war.”

There is some real progress in the political process. But unless and until it moves into the difficult detail of a real transition, the confidence in Damascus will remain undiminished.



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