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Regional geopolitics

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  • Vrej1915

    US Considering Ways To Remove B61 Nuclear Bombs From Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: US Media Click to see full-size image
    The US is allegedly looking into ways to remove 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs that it keeps in the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
    This, expectedly, is a result of the Turkish advance on Kurdish militias in northeastern Syria, and the US attempts to disown responsibility for abandoning the Kurdish and being the underlying reason for the entire debacle.
    The NYT reported that officials from the Pentagon and from the US Department of Energy were looking into what exactly to do with the B61 bombs at Incirlik.
    These bombs were a serious concern in the past as well, especially in 2016 during the alleged coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
    US Considering Ways To Remove B61 Nuclear Bombs From Incirlik Air Base, Turkey: US Media Incirlik Air Base, back in 2015. Click to see full-size image
    There are also conspiracy theories that the US played a part in the failed coup, and there’ve been calls in Turkey for investigations into American military personnel and raids onto the American portions of the base to collect evidence.
    According to various estimates, there may be from 35 to 50 nuclear weapons that have been stored there since the Cold War.
    The reason for the interest in moving nuclear weapons from Turkey is commonplace – the introduction of very stringent sanctions against Turkey, both ordered by Trump and likely incoming from the US Congress, is likely to lead to the closure of Incirlik base for use by the US military.
    Furthermore, the alleged shelling near the US base near Kobani, Syria also makes US officials worry that the first country to host US nuclear weapons is actually targeting US forces indiscriminately. Regardless of how true it is.
    Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek would not answer questions about possible nuclear weapons at Incirlik and whether they would be moved in an email.
    “The mission of the 39th [Air Base Wing at Incirlik] is to provide persistent surety and continuous air operations for the U.S., our allies and our partners and helps protect U.S. and NATO interests in the Southern Region by providing a responsive and operational air base ready to project integrated, forward-based airpower,” Stefanek said.
    An unnamed senior official reportedly told the Times that the weapons “were now essentially [Turkish President Recep] Erdogan’s hostages” since removing the weapons would effectively spell the end of America’s alliance with Turkey, but keeping them there would leave them vulnerable.
    Former Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James would not confirm or deny the presence of nuclear weapons there. But she speculated what would be done if anything had to be done with the bombs.
    If the Air Force found a new nation willing to host the nukes, James said, it would have to take “the greatest of care” in their removal and transport. If the receiving base did not have the facilities or security necessary, James said, it would require a significant construction effort. And NATO would likely be involved.
    “Any time nuclear weapons are moved from point A to point B, it is a major logistical challenge,” James said. “The security is enormous that goes with this.”
    The topic is already being discussed in full in Turkish media in the context of the fact that Turkey will not bend and respond to sanctions harshly, including by closing the Incirlik air base for US aviation.
    During the Obama administration, the US mulled the idea of removing the nuclear bombs from Turkey, but then Ankara said that, if that were the case, then it could strive to become a nuclear power itself.
    The current cooling of relations between the US and Turkey could potentially lead to Ankara returning the acquisition of nuclear weapons of its own back on the agenda. That is more than likely why the situation of taking the B61 nuclear gravity bombs out of the country is most complicated, and it doesn’t specifically come down to technical means or the financial cost of such an operation.

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  • Vrej1915

    If the pictures showing the Quds 1 wreckage in Saudi Arabia are indeed connected to the recent Abqaiq attack, it would seem more likely that the attack originated from a place closer to Eastern Saudi Arabia than Northern Yemen – potentially Iraq, Iran or perhaps even from ships. But then again that is a big if at the current moment.

    All of this leaves the question of just who developed and built the Quds 1. The idea that impoverished war-torn Yemen would be able to develop a cruise missile without any outside assistance seems far-fetched. Iran’s previous supply of missiles to the Houthis and the fact that the country uses TJ100 engines in its drone program do imply that the Iran could be behind the Quds 1.

    However, so far we haven’t seen any trace of the Quds 1 in Iran proper. This riddle is not unique to the Quds 1. Beginning in 2018, several missile systems began to emerge in Yemen that while broadly similar to Iranian-designed systems have no exact Iranian equivalent. These missiles include the Badr-1P and the Badr-F precision-guided solid-fuel short range missiles

    Is Iran secretly designing, testing and producing missile systems for exclusive use by its proxies? We might have to wait for Tehran Timmy to show up in Sanaa or the Donald to tweet another high-res satellite pic to find the answer

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  • Vrej1915
    Meet the Quds 1

    by Fabian Hinz | September 15, 2019
    On September 14, several explosions rocked the Khurais oilfield as well as the Abqaiq refinery, one of Saudi Arabia’s most vital petrochemical installations. Several hours later, the Houthis claimed that they had targeted both facilities with ten drones as part of their “Balance of Deterrence” campaign.
    What made this attack different from other recorded Houthi drone attacks was not only the unprecedented amount of material damage caused but also lingering doubt about the nature and the attribution of the attack. First, a video allegedly showing flying objects entering Kuwaiti airspace led to speculation that like a previous “Houthi” drone attack this strike might actually have originated in Iraq or even Iran. While the video remains unverified, the fact that the Kuwaiti government launched a probe into the issue lends some credence to the idea that something might have happened over Kuwait that day. Speculation about the origins of the attack was further fueled by a tweet by Mike Pompeo in which he claimed that there was no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.
    Then the question arose whether drones had been used at all, or whether the attack might in fact have been a missile strike. Previous Houthi drone strikes against oil facilities tended to result in quite limited damage which could be an indication that a different weapons system was used this time. Indeed, Aramco came to the conclusion that its facilities were attacked by missiles. Even more curious, several pictures began to emerge on social media purportedly showing the wreckage of a missile in the Saudi desert. While the images appear real, neither the date the photos were taken nor their location can be verified. Social media users quickly claimed the images showed a crashed Iranian-made Soumar cruise missile. The Soumar and its updated version, the Hoveyzeh, are Iran’s attempts at reverse-engineering the Soviet-designed KH-55 cruise missile, several of which the country illegally imported from Ukraine in the early 2000s. Others claimed it was the Quds 1, a recently unveiled Houthi cruise missile often claimed to be a rebranded Soumar.
    While at this point there are still more questions about the attack than answers, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at the Quds 1. Do the pictures in the desert actually show a Quds 1? And is the Quds 1 really just a smuggled Soumar?
    The story of the Quds 1 begins in mid-June 2019, when a cruise missile fired by the Houthis hit the terminal of Abha Airport in Southern Saudi Arabia, wounding a total of 26 passengers. Not long afterwards, Saudi Arabia held a press conference showing images of the missile’s wreckage and claiming that the missile in question was an Iranian Ya Ali cruise missile. The Ya Ali is a much smaller missile than the Soumar and while the newest version of the Soumar has a range of up to 1350km, the Ya Ali’s range is limited to about 700km. With Abha airport being located only 110km from the Yemeni border, using a smaller, shorter-range system seemed to make sense. However, there was an inconsistency. The rounded wings and stabilizers shown in the Saudi presentation did not match the Ya Ali. Instead they were more reminiscent of the Soumar.
    Only a few weeks later, in early July, the Houthis opened a large static display of their ballistic missile and drone arsenal. One of the surprises unveiled at the show was a cruise missile named Quds 1 (Jerusalem 1) which the Houthis claimed to have indigenously developed.
    Noting the overall similarity in design with the Soumar, many observers claimed Iran had simply smuggled it to Yemen where the Houthis gave it a new paint job and a new name, as they had done before with the Qiam. Well, it turns out cruise missiles are a lot like wines or pictures of Joe Biden. At first they all appear to be the same but once you spend enough time on them, you realize there are quite a few differences. Differences between the Quds 1 and the Soumar include the entire booster design, the wing position, the Quds 1’s fixed wings, the shape of the nose cone, the shape of the aft fuselage, the position of the stabilizers and the shape of the engine cover and exhaust.
    The differences in the shape of the aft fuselage and the position of the stabilizers make it clear that the wreckage in the desert is much more likely to be a Quds 1 than a Soumar.
    There is yet another apparent difference between the Quds 1 and the Soumar/Hoveyzeh: size. A quick measurement using MK1 Eyeball reveals that the Quds 1 seems to be smaller in diameter than the Soumar.
    But while MK1 Eyeball works fine, measuring is always a little more objective. So let’s go back to the Saudi presentation for a second. When describing the remnants of the alleged Ya Ali that hit Abha airport, the Saudis mentioned that among the wreckage they found a jet engine named TJ-100.
    A quick search reveals that there indeed is a small turbojet engine called TJ100. The engine is produced by the Czech company PBS Aerospace which describes it as being especially suitable for applications in UAVs, one of its uses being the Spanish/Brazilian Diana target drone. Oh yeah, and you can also totally use it to convert your glider into a jet, which is pretty cool.
    When comparing the engine seen on the Quds 1 and the TJ100 it seems pretty clear that whatever powers the Quds 1 is either a TJ100 or pretty much an exact copy of it. An engine displayed at an Iranian drone exhibition again shows stunning similarities with the TJ100, implying that Iran is producing a copy of the Czech engine for use in some of its drones.
    Knowing the dimensions of the TJ100, one can precisely measure the diameter of the Quds 1. With 34cm it is significantly smaller than the Soumar, which retains the original KH-55’s diameter of 51,4cm.
    However, the Qud 1’s use of a TJ100 is interesting for more reasons than just measurements. First, the fact that the Quds 1 uses the same engine type that was found in Abha makes it highly likely that the missile that hit Abha’s terminal was a Quds-1 simply mislabeled by Saudi Arabia. The Quds 1’s design also corresponds to the rounded wing and stabilizers found at the scene.
    Second, knowing more details about the engine gives us some insights into the performance of the missile. Both the KH-55 and the Soumar use fuel efficient turbofan engines. The TJ100 however not only has much lower thrust than the original KH-55 engine but also is just your regular old turbojet. This leads to some questions about range. Both the missile’s smaller size and its more fuel-hungry engine make it seem unlikely it’s range would be anywhere close to the the Soumar’s/Hoveyzeh’s range of 1350km.

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  • Vrej1915
    Yemen's Huthi Rebels Claim Drone Strikes On Saudi Oil Sites

    September 14, 2019

    Videos apparently shot in Buqyaq showed smoke rising over the skyline and glowing flames could be seen at the Abqaiq oil-processing facility.

    Yemen's Huthi rebels have claimed responsibility for two drone attacks on oil facilities operated by Saudi Aramco earlier on September 14.

    Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry said an oil field in Khurais Province and an oil-processing facility, the world’s biggest, in Abqaiq Province, were targeted in the drone strikes.

    The attacks sparked fires, which Saudi authorities later said were brought under control.

    Several hours after the predawn attacks, Aramco has issued no statement and the authorities have not reported on casualties.

    State television said exports were continuing.

    Abqaiq is located 60 kilometers southwest of Aramco's Dhahran headquarters. It contains the world's largest oil-processing plant, handling crude from the giant Ghawar field and for export to terminals Ras Tanura -- the world's biggest offshore oil-loading facility -- and Juaymah. It also pumps westwards across the kingdom to Red Sea export terminals.

    Khurais, 190 kilometers further southwest, contains the country's second-largest oil field.

    Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Sunni Muslim countries that intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Shi’ite Huthis.

    Riyadh has blamed regional rival Shi'ite Iran for previous attacks, which Tehran denies. Riyadh accuses Iran of arming the Huthis, a charge denied by the group and Tehran.

    The war has become the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The violence has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine and killed more than 90,000 people since 2015, according to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED, which tracks the conflict.

    Since the start of the Saudi-led war, Huthi rebels have been using drones in combat.

    The rebels have flown drones into radar range of Saudi Arabia's Patriot missile batteries, according to Conflict Armament Research, disabling them and allowing the Huthis to fire ballistic missiles into the kingdom unchallenged.

    UN investigators said the Huthis' new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 kilometers.
    With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

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  • Vrej1915
    Ռուսաստանը կարող է Թուրքիային տրամադրել միջուկային զենքի տեխնոլոգիաներ։ Ինչու է դա պետք Ռուսաստանին

    Մեր զրուցակիցն է ՄԱՀՀԻ ասոցացված փորձագետ, թուրքագետ Հայկ Գաբրիելյանը
    Թուրքիայի նախագահ Էրդողանը հայտարարել է, որ չի ընդունում միջուկային զենք ստեղծելու առիթով իր երկրի վրա դրված արգելքը: Նա անտրամաբանական է համարել այն, որ աշխարհի մի շարք երկրներ ունեն միջուկային մարտագլխիկով հրթիռներ, սակայն իր երկիրը չի կարող ունենալ: Որքանո՞վ է հավանական Թուրքիայի նկրտումների կյանքի կոչումը։
    Ընդհանուր առմամբ՝ Թուրքիայի միջուկային նկրտումները հայտնի էին դեռևս տարիներ առաջ։ Հստակ տեսնում ենք, որ Թուրքիան գնում է այնպիսի ճանապարհով, որ ժամանակին ունենա միջուկային զենք, որ կարողանա անհրաժեշտ պահի արտադրել այդ զենքը։ Ատոմակայան կառուցելը օգնության է հասնում այդ հարցում։ Առաջին ատոմակայանը Թուրքիայում կառուցում է Ռուսաստանը, և մեծ մտավախություններ կան, որ հենց Ռուսաստանը կարող է Թուրքիային տրամադրել միջուկային տեխնոլոգիաներ։
    Ինչու է դա պետք Ռուսաստանին. նախ նրա համար, որ ՌԴ նախագահ Վլադիմիր Պուտինը ամեն կերպ շահագրգռված է Էրդողանի վարչակարգի պահպանմամբ, երկրորդ՝ Պուտինը ցանկանում է սկսել ՆԱՏՕ-ն մասնատելու գործընթաց, իսկ այդ առումով ամենահարմար երկիրը համարվում է Թուրքիան։ Այսինքն գործարք կարող է տեղի ունենալ, որպեսզի Ռուսաստանը միջուկային զենքի տեխնոլոգիաները տա Թուրքիային, պայմանով, որ Թուրքիան լքի ՆԱՏՕ-ն։ Ըստ էության, Թուրքիան ՆԱՏՕ-ի կարիքն այնքան էլ չի զգա, և Թուրքիան հմտորեն օգտագործում է այդ հանգամանքը՝ ասելով, թե «ինչու Իսրայելը պետք է միջուկային զենք ունենա, իսկ ես ոչ։ Ո՞վ է ասել, որ ինձ արգելված է»։
    Այս պայմաններում ինչպիսի՞ն պետք է լինի մեր դիրքորոշումը։
    Շատ բարդ հարց է. ակնհայտորեն միջուկային Թուրքիան որոշ առումով ավելի վտանգավոր է։ Համարժեքը կլիներ այն, որ մենք նույնպես ունենայինք միջուկային զենք, բայց դա դժվար իրականանալի է։ Կարծում եմ՝ պետք է շարունակել աշխատել գերտերությունների հետ, մասնավորապես, օրինակ, Գերմանիայի հետ, որպեսզի վերջինս վերջապես զբաղվի Հայաստանի անվտանգության ապահովմամբ։ Ինչու հենց Գերմանիան, որովհետև հիշում եք, որ 2012 թվականին Գերմանիան ընդունեց Հայոց ցեղասպանության հարցում իր հանցակցությունը, այսինքն պատասխանատվության իր մասը։ Հիմա կարելի է պատասխանատվության այդ մասի չափով Գերմանիայից պահանջել համապատասխան փոխհատուցում, այսինքն զբաղվել նաև մեր անվտանգության ապահովմամբ։ Իր հանցակցության չափով Գերմանիան պետք է մասնակցի մեր անվտանգության ապահովմանը։ Դա կլինի տարբեր տիպի տեխնոլոգիաների տեսքով, թե այլ նախագծերի ֆինանսավորմամբ, դա արդեն այլ հարց է։ Այսպիսի պահանջով առաջին հերթին պետք է հանդես գան Սփյուռքում, հետո երկրորդ փուլում կարող է խաղի մեջ մտնել Հայաստանը։
    Այսինքն` Հայաստանը պետք է բազմավեկտոր անվտանգության քաղաքականությո՞ւն վարի։
    Ընդհանրապես, բազմավեկտոր քաղաքականությունը ավելի նախընտրելի է, քան մեկ բևեռից կախված լինելը։ Թուրքիայի օրինակը ապացուցում է դա, երբ անհրաժեշտության դեպքում Թուրքիան շատ հմտորեն օգտագործում է Ռուսաստանի և ԱՄՆ-ի միջև առաջացած խնդիրները։ Իհարկե, մեր հնարավորությունները դա թույլ չեն տալիս, բայց կարելի է փորձել հասկանալ, թե Ռուսաստանում ինչ են մտածում, արդյոք իսկապես կա նման վտանգ, որ Մոսկվան կարող է միջուկային զենքի տեխնոլոգիաներ տրամադրել Թուրքիային։
    Որքանո՞վ են իրական այդ վտանգները։
    Իմ անձնական կարծիքն այնպիսին է, որ շատ հարցերում չեն համընկնում Վլադիմիր Պուտինի և Ռուսաստանի շահերը, ինչպես չեն համընկնում Թուրքիայի և Էրդողանի անձնական շահերը։ Կան փորձագետներ, որ պնդում են, որ այսօր չկան Ռուսաստան-Թուրքիա հարաբերություններ, կան Պուտին-Էրդողան հարաբերություններ, և հենց դրանք են պայմանավորում կողմերի դիրքերը։ Էրդողանը գիտի, որ Պուտինն ամեն կերպ աջակցելու է իր վարչակարգի պահպանմանը, մինչդեռ ԱՄՆ-ի դերպքում վստահ չէ, որ այդպես կլինի։ Պուտինն էլ օգտագործում է Էրդողանին, փորձում է ամեն կերպ հաճոյանալ նրան, բավարարել նրա պահանջները և հասնել նրան, որ ի վերջո, Թուրքիան դուրս գա ՆԱՏՕ-ից։ Պուտինի համար իդեա-ֆիքս է դարձել Թուրքիային ՆԱՏՕ-ից պոկելը, և դա հնարավոր է բացառապես այն դեպքում, եթե Թուրքիան ունենա միջուկային զենք։ Այլ դեպքում չեմ պատկերացնում, որ Թուրքիան համաձայնի դուրս գալ ՆԱՏՕ-ից, որքան էլ Մոսկվան իրեն սիրաշահի։
    Թուրքիայում ՏԻՄ ընտրություններից, մասնավորապես Ստամբուլի քաղաքապետի ընտրություններից հետո խոսվում էր Էրդողանի իշխանության դիրքերի թուլացման մասին։ Որքանո՞վ են իրական կանխատեսումները, որ Էրդողանը կարող է պարտվել հաջորդ ընտրություններում։

    Էրդողանը նորից նախագահ ընտրվելու, ըստ էության, ցմահ նախագահ մնալու մեծ շանսեր ունի, եթե ֆորսմաժորներ չլինեն։ Նա կարող է անընդհատ վերընտրվել մինչև 2033 թվականը։ Ճիշտ է, վերջին ընտրությունները ցույց տվեցին, որ Էրդողանի և նրա կուսակցության հեղինակությունը նվազել է, բայց ամեն դեպքում Թուրքիայում բոլորը պատրաստվում են 2023 թվականին կայանալիք խորհրդարանական և նախագահական ընտրություններին։ Այդ տարի լրանում է Թուրքիայի Հանրապետության 100-ամյակը, և Էրդողանը, ըստ ամենայնի, կցանկանար, որ 2023 թվականին Թուրքիան արդեն լինի որպես միջուկային զենք ունեցող երկիր։ Էրդողանը բազմիցս հայտարարել է, որ առաջիկայում կունենան նոր Թուրքիա։ Ըստ ամենայնի, նա նկատի ունի միջուկային զենք ունենալը։

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  • Vrej1915

    September 6, 2019
    Germany’s Leopard 2 Tank in Syria Was Beaten Badly in Battle. Why?

    Here's what happened.
    by Sebastien Roblin

    This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over ISIS-held Al-Bab—a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel.
    Germany’s Leopard 2 main battle tank has a reputation as one of the finest in the world, competing for that distinction with proven designs such as the American M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2. However, that reputation for nigh-invincibility has faced setbacks on Syrian battlefields, and placed Berlin in a uniquely awkward national-level dispute with Turkey, its fellow NATO member.
    (This first appeared back in September 2018.)
    Ankara had offered to release a German political prisoner in exchange for Germany upgrading the Turkish Army’s older-model Leopard 2A4 tank, which had proven embarrassingly vulnerable in combat. However, on January 24, public outrage over reports that Turkey was using its Leopard 2s to kill Kurdish fighters in the Syrian enclaves of Afrin and Manbij forced Berlin to freeze the hostage-for-tanks deal.
    The Leopard 2 is often compared to its near contemporary, the M1 Abrams: in truth the two designs share broadly similar characteristics, including a scale-tipping weight of well over sixty tons of advanced composite armor, 1,500 horsepower engines allowing speeds over forty miles per hour and, for certain models, the same forty-four-caliber 120-millimeter main gun produced by Rheinmetall.
    Both types can easily destroy most Russian-built tanks at medium and long ranges, at which they are unlikely to be penetrated by return fire from standard 125-millimeter guns. Furthermore, they have better sights with superior thermal imagers and magnification, that make them more likely to detect and hit the enemy first—historically, an even greater determinant of the victor in armored warfare than sheer firepower. A Greek trial found that moving Leopard 2s and Abramses hit a 2.3-meter target nineteen and twenty times out of twenty, respectively, while a Soviet T-80 scored only eleven hits.
    The modest differences between the two Western tanks reveal different national philosophies. The Abrams has a noisy 1,500-horsepower gas-guzzling turbine, which starts up more rapidly, while the Leopard 2’s diesel motor grants it greater range before refueling. The Abrams has achieved some of its extraordinary offensive and defensive capabilities through use of depleted uranium ammunition and armor packages—technologies politically unacceptable to the Germans. Therefore, later models of the Leopard 2A6 now mount a higher-velocity fifty-five-caliber gun to make up the difference in penetrating power, while the 2A5 Leopard introduced an extra wedge of spaced armor on the turret to better absorb enemy fire.
    German scruples also extend to arms exports, with Berlin imposing more extensive restrictions on which countries it is willing to sell weapons to—at least in comparison to France, the United States or Russia. While the Leopard 2 is in service with eighteen countries, including many NATO members, a lucrative Saudi bid for between four hundred and eight hundred Leopard 2s was rejected by Berlin because of the Middle Eastern country’s human-rights records, and its bloody war in Yemen in particular. The Saudis instead ordered additional Abramses to their fleet of around four hundred.
    This bring us to Turkey, a NATO country with which Berlin has important historical and economic ties, but which also has had bouts of military government and waged a controversial counterinsurgency campaign against Kurdish separatists for decades. In the early 2000s, under a more favorable political climate, Berlin sold 354 of its retired Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ankara. These represented a major upgrade over the less well protected M60 Patton tanks that make up the bulk of Turkey’s armored forces.
    However, the rumor has long persisted that Berlin agreed to the sale under the condition that the German tanks not be used in Turkey’s counterinsurgency operations against the Kurds. Whether such an understanding ever existed is hotly contested, but the fact remains that the Leopard 2 was kept well away from the Kurdish conflict and instead deployed in northern Turkey, opposite Russia.
    However, in the fall of 2016, Turkish Leopard 2s of the Second Armored Brigade finally deployed to the Syrian border to support Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkey’s intervention against ISIS. Prior to the Leopard’s arrival, around a dozen Turkish Patton tanks were destroyed by both ISIS and Kurdish missiles. Turkish defense commentators expressed the hope that the tougher Leopard would fare better.

    The 2A4 model was the last of the Cold War–era Leopard 2s, which were designed to fight in relatively concentrated units in a fast-paced defensive war against Soviet tank columns, not to survive IEDs and missiles fired by ambushing insurgents in long-term counterinsurgency campaigns where every single loss was a political issue. The 2A4 retains an older boxy turret configurations which affords less protection from modern antitank missiles, especially to the generally more vulnerable rear and side armor, which is a bigger problem in a counterinsurgency environment, where an attack may come from any direction.
    This was shockingly illustrated in December 2016 when evidence emerged that numerous Leopard 2s had been destroyed in intense fighting over ISIS-held Al-Bab—a fight that Turkish military leaders described as a “trauma,” according to Der Spiegel. A document published online listed ISIS as apparently having destroyed ten of the supposedly invincible Leopard 2s; five reportedly by antitank missiles, two by mines or IEDs, one to rocket or mortar fire, and the others to more ambiguous causes.
    These photos confirm the destruction of at least eight. One shows a Leopard 2 apparently knocked out by a suicide VBIED—an armored kamikaze truck packed with explosives. Another had its turret blown clean off. Three Leopard wrecks can be seen around the same hospital near Al-Bab, along with several other Turkish armored vehicles. It appears the vehicles were mostly struck the more lightly protected belly and side armor by IEDs and AT-7 Metis and AT-5 Konkurs antitank missiles.
    Undoubtedly, the manner in which the Turkish Army employed the German tanks likely contributed to the losses. Rather than using them in a combined arms force alongside mutually supporting infantry, they were deployed to the rear as long-range fire-support weapons while Turkish-allied Syrian militias stiffened with Turkish special forces led the assaults. Isolated on exposed firing positions without adequate nearby infantry to form a good defensive perimeter, the Turkish Leopards were vulnerable to ambushes. The same poor tactics have led to the loss of numerous Saudi Abrams tanks in Yemen, as you can see in this video.
    By contrast, more modern Leopard 2s have seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan combating Taliban insurgents in the service of the Canadian 2A6Ms (with enhanced protection against mines and even floating “safety seats”) and Danish 2A5s. Though a few were damaged by mines, all were put back into service, though a Danish Leopard 2 crew member was mortally injured by an IED attack in 2008. In return, the tanks were praised by field commanders for their mobility and providing accurate and timely fire support during major combat operations in southern Afghanistan.
    In 2017, Germany began rebuilding its tank fleet, building an even beefier Leopard 2A7V model more likely to survive in a counterinsurgency environment. Now Ankara is pressing Berlin to upgrade the defense on its Leopard 2 tanks, especially as the domestically produced Altay tank has been repeatedly delayed.
    The Turkish military not only wants additional belly armor to protect against IEDs, but the addition of an Active Protection System (APS) that can detect incoming missiles and their point of origin, and jam or even shoot them down. The U.S. Army recently authorized the installation of Israeli Trophy APS on a brigade of M1 Abrams tanks, a type that has proven effective in combat. Meanwhile, Leopard 2 manufacturer Rheinmetall has unveiled its own ADATS APS, which supposedly poses a lesser risk of harming friendly troops with its defensive countermeasure missiles.
    However, German-Turkish relations deteriorated sharply, especially after Erdogan initiated a prolonged crackdown on thousands of supposed conspirators after a failed military coup attempt in August 2016. In February 2017, German-Turkish dual-citizen Deniz Yücel, a correspondent for periodical Die Welt, was arrested by Turkish authorities, ostensibly for being a pro-Kurdish spy. His detention caused outrage in Germany.
    Ankara pointedly let it be known that if a Leopard 2 upgrade were allowed to proceed, Yücel would be released back to Germany. Though Berlin publicly insisted it would never agree to such a quid pro quo, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel quietly began moving towards authorizing the upgrade in a bid to improve relations in the face of what looks suspiciously like tank-based blackmail. Gabriel presented the deal as a measure to protect Turkish soldiers’ lives from ISIS.
    However, in mid-January 2018, Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish enclaves of Afrin and Manbij in northwestern Syria. The attack was precipitated generally by Turkish fears that effective Kurdish control of the Syrian border would lead to a de facto state that would expand into Turkish territory, and proximately by an announcement by the Pentagon that it was recruiting the Kurds to form a “border security force” to continue the fight against ISIS.
    However, photos on social media soon emerged showing that Leopard 2 tanks were being employed to blast Kurdish positions in Afrin, where there have several dozen civilian casualties have been reported. Furthermore, on January 21, the Kurdish YPG published a YouTube video depicting a Turkish Leopard 2 being struck by a Konkurs antitank missiles. However, it is not possible to tell if the tank was knocked out; the missile may have struck the Leopard 2’s front armor, which is rated as equivalent to 590 to 690 millimeters of rolled homogenous armor on the 2A4, while the two types of Konkurs missiles can penetrate six or eight hundred millimeters of RHA.
    In any event, parliamentarians both from German left-wing parties and Merkel’s right-wing Christian Democratic Union reacted with outrage, with a member of the latter describing the Turkish offensive as a violation of international law. On January 25, the Merkel administration was forced to announce that an upgrade to the Leopard 2 was off the table, at least for now. Ankara views the deal as merely postponed, and cagey rhetoric from Berlin suggests it may return to the deal at a more politically opportune time.
    Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

    Last edited by Vrej1915; 09-08-2019, 07:10 AM.

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  • Vrej1915
    The bitter legacy of Turkey in Afrin

    Pinar Tremblay

    September 7, 2019

    Article Summary
    Afrinis fear the destruction of religious and historic sites, and ethnic cleansing in Turkish-controlled Afrin is helping in the resurgence of Islamic State and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups.

    REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi
    Turkish soldiers ride on a military vehicle as a Kurdish statue that was pulled down is seen in the center of Afrin, Syria, March 24, 2018.

    “We did not learn from Afrin; that is how we are in this mess in Idlib,” said a two-star retired major general when news about the harassment of the Turkish army’s Morek observation point by Russian-backed forces broke. Turkey started its second cross-border military operation, this one named Operation Olive Branch, in January 2018, which resulted in the capture of Afrin province in northern Syria (the first was Operation Euphrates Shield). Completed in the span of two months, this operation is seen as a military success in Ankara. Unlike Operation Euphrates Shield, which mobilized twice as many Free Syrian Army (FSA) soldiers as the Turkish army, Operation Olive Branch relied on Turkish soldiers (on a three-to-one ratio with the FSA) — mainly commando units and gendarmerie. Today, the Afrin area is controlled by Turkish-backed forces. Turkey has been insistent on a safe zone and is determined to push Kurdish forces away from its border. The Olive Branch mission was to cleanse the region from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units. Yet all Afrinis suffer under ethnic, cultural and religious cleansing.
    Turkish Radio and Television reports that Afrin, now “freed of terror," continues to operate at a "normal pace.” Nevertheless, the same report says that gendarmeries continue their training to combat terrorism and battle mines and traps. What really has happened in Afrin since March 2018?
    Al-Monitor spoke with Afrin residents, researchers, senior Democratic Union Party officials, as well as members of the Turkish armed forces who have participated in Operation Olive Branch. Three categories require attention: the destruction of historic and holy sites, confiscation of property and natural wealth, and kidnapping of Afrin residents for ransom. The end goal of all three tactics seems twofold: the expulsion of Kurds, Alevis and Yazidis, or the Sunnification and Arabization of Afrin, and accruing financial gains to pay off FSA militias.
    General Secretary of the Kurdish Democratic Unity Party in Syria Muhyadin Sheik Aley told Al-Monitor, “As soon as the Turkish forces and their mercenaries entered the city of Afrin and its environs, they began to destroy the most prominent monuments, most notably a monument of Newroz Kawa, which has great importance for Kurds because of its meanings of freedom and beauty in the mythology of the people of Afrin.

    The destruction of shrines — most notably the shrine of Mohammad Nuri Dersimi in the Sheikh Hanan cemetery — and of holy places, the cutting of perennial trees scattered in most villages and districts of the region of Afrin that have historically served as shrines for all Kurds are especially important to the adherents of ancient religions. Distinct and ancient religions — Yazidism, Zoroastrianism and lovers of Imam Ali — have survived for centuries against the prevailing authorities of the central state. Amed Dicle, a seasoned journalist who visits the region frequently, explained that Dersimi — a well-known Kurdish intellectual — escaped from the Dersim province of Turkey along with other Alevi families in the early years of the Republic (1938) as people of Dersim were prosecuted.
    A local resident and researcher who asked for anonymity said the grave of Dersimi’s wife, Farida, was also destroyed. This was a sign of “deep hatred and abuse by armed forces,” she said, adding that she found three main reasons for the Turkish-backed desecration and destruction of holy sites: financial gain, racism (anti-Kurdish) and religious domination. Even trees that people view as sacred and where they come to make wishes with little ribbons were targeted in the region. But the olive trees were specifically important, as several stories over the year have been reported on the confiscation of olive oil and how it is marketed to EU countries via Turkey.
    The researcher added, “In many cases, the tombs and shrines were bulldozed and vandalized for theft, where the graves are exhumed in search of gold and precious objects and archaeological finds — especially tombs on the hills — and the looting and theft of the contents of some mosques such as solar panels, batteries, electrical appliances, sound equipment and carpets.” Dicle concurred, “My sources from the archaeology directorate in Afrin confirm that about 16,000 artifacts were stolen from the region.” The region had 144 historic locations, but Ain Dara is where most of the artifacts were taken and smuggled into Turkey for sale. Multiple reports and aerial images show the extent of the damage since the launching of Operation Olive Branch.
    The researcher reckoned that “22 Yazidi villages experienced vandalism of gravestones, including that of Sheikh Hamid.” Turkish-backed local authorities have alleged that the destroyed gravestones were against the new law, which requires their height to be lower. For the locals, these kind of arguments are a replica of those they have seen with the Islamic State (IS). Several Alevi shrines where people come to find solace were looted and destroyed, including Yagmur Dada, Ali Dada and Aslan Dada in the Bulbul district.
    Turkey has not just destroyed shrines and ancient historic sites; it has also engaged in construction projects. Aley said, “They destroy ancient sites to replace them with private mosques and mosques supervised by the graduates of institutes and religious colleges. … Afrinis view this as Turkish chauvinism. They are actively promoting the Turkish language and raising the flag of Turkey on the premises of circles and institutions outside the borders of the Turkish state, which arouses animosity among the people.”
    Turkey’s official religious body, the Diyanet, has deep investments in the region. The Afrini researcher added that Turkish forces are building mosques particularly in Alevi villages, where no one attends mosque. Erecting mosques and paying imams in Alevi towns with no congregation has indeed been a long tradition of the Diyanet in Turkey. The building of mosques is seen as a step toward forced conversions. “It is as if we are preparing the region for militant jihadists [al-Qaeda and IS-affiliated groups], and my colleagues who served in the area suffer from the moral humiliation of the way the operation evolved,” said the retired Turkish general.
    Aley was also concerned about the forces “setting fire to the forests and jungles, yet first harvesting olives and cutting valuable trees for their logs and coal industry.” Dicle added that "11,000 hectares of forestry" has "burned down to the ground” since Operation Olive Branch began.
    Aley confirmed several other reports from the region about hundreds of Afrin residents being kidnapped for ransom. He said, “These are systematic acts. The Turkish authorities continue to pursue them [with kidnapping, destroying natural sources and desecrating holy places] in Afrin, with the aim of emptying them from their indigenous peoples in order to effect and perpetuate demographic change, by bringing in crowds of Turkmen and Arab families from outside Afrin and forcibly settling them while offering incentives and privileges to them. Turkey gives ample room for its jihadist aides to carry out kidnappings and arbitrary arrests of civilians in Afrin for financial blackmail, committing crimes of murder and torture, seizing the property of the people, and confiscating houses, vehicles and agricultural mechanisms to close the doors of work and production.” Aley’s observations highlight that locals are terrorized with fears of being kidnapped, and unemployment and poverty are on the rise.
    Aley’s following statement is alarming as worries about an IS comeback spread: “What is striking is the movement of new jihadist elements from Idlib province and the Euphrates Shield areas of Jarablus, al-Bab and Azzaz toward the districts of Afrin. They are … stationed in camouflaged places and headquarters. These areas can be used as fertile ground and turned into bases and platforms for planning and launching transcontinental terrorist acts, as was the case in Manbij under the control of [IS] there,” said Aley. His perspicacious explanation was based on his knowledge of the terrain and resources of Afrin province.
    The atrocities of Turkish-back forces in Afrin shows that Ankara is not interested in solving its own Kurdish problem or even securing its borders. The current policies only help expand the Kurdish problem and security vulnerabilities on the Syrian border. Unintended consequences of this policy can be costly for both Turkey and the region.

    Found in: Syria Conflict

    Pinar Tremblay is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse and a visiting scholar of political science at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is a columnist for Turkish news outlet T24. Her articles have appeared in Time, New America, Hurriyet Daily News, Today's Zaman, Star and Salom. On Twitter: @pinartremblay

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  • Vrej1915
    September 6, 2019

    Why Russia's New Su-35 and Su-57 Stealth Fighter Went to War and Syria

    And why.
    by Michael Peck

    Russia’s air force has gained valuable combat experience in Syria.
    In fact, the majority of combat pilots have flown in Syria, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated during a military conference.

    “The figures speak for themselves here,” said Russian military newspaper Red Star. “98 percent of the transport aviation crews and 90 percent of operational-tactical and army aviation crews, and also 60 percent of the long-range aviation pilots have already participated in the previously mentioned operations. Furthermore, nearly one-third of the air defense specialists - 32 percent of the servicemen - have confirmed their mastery and professionalism during the course of the fulfillment of missions in Syria.”
    Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War proved pivotal in saving Bashar al-Assad’s regime from defeat by Islamic rebels. While Hezbollah and Iran fought the ground war with troops and advisers that buttressed the sagging Syrian Arab Army, Russia flew constant and devastating air strikes against the rebels (and also killed numerous Syrian civilians). Russia had a chance to test numerous planes, including the Su-35 fighter, the Tu-160 strategic bomber, the Su-57 stealth fighter and various missiles and smart bombs.
    Such testing was needed. As The National Interest has previously reported, the Russian military has admitted problems with its equipment, such as smart bombs that missed their targets in Syria because they had never experienced desert conditions while being tested in Russia. The U.S. military has also had its share of weapons that proved better in the laboratory than the battlefield. Today’s F-22 and F-35 fighters, and the deadly smart bombs and air-to-air missiles they carry, owe much to painful lessons learned during the Vietnam War, when American equipment and air combat tactics were found to be unsuitable.

    The Vietnam War left the U.S. military devastated for a decade, but it did give the Pentagon a chance to grapple with the challenges of modern aerial warfare, such as anti-aircraft missiles, smart bombs and electronic warfare. The cost was more than 3,700 American aircraft destroyed, plus another 5,000 helicopters.

    Russia’s Syria intervention has been far cheaper. Perhaps two dozen or so Russian jets and helicopters have been reported destroyed by enemy fire or accidents, including the accidental downing of an Il-20 surveillance aircraft by Syrian gunners (note that the Syrian Air Force has taken far higher losses).

    In return, Moscow has been able to rotate large numbers of aircrew through Syria to gain experience, which they can then pass on to crews back in Russia. Russian Tu-160 and Tu-95 bombers fired cruise missiles at rebel targets in Syria. Syrian ground troops, along with their Iranian and Hezbollah allies, received plentiful air support from Su-24, Su-25 and Su-30 strike aircraft, as well as Mi-24 and Mi-28 helicopters. Some of Russia’s most sophisticated equipment, notably the Su-57 and Su-35 fighters, made at least cameo appearances in Syrian skies.

    To make this happen, the Russian military had to be capable of mastering a variety of tasks. Mechanics, maintenance equipment and supplies had to be shipped or airlifted from Russia to Syria. Ground controllers and staffs had to plan and coordinate missions in a chaotic multinational environment, while forward controllers had to accurately call in airstrikes.

    By the standards of America, which has been practicing overseas air warfare since World War I, this is old hat. But for Russia, this is a new experience, and one that will make Russian airpower both more competent and more confident.

    Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook
    Last edited by Vrej1915; 09-07-2019, 01:22 PM.

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  • Vrej1915
    Մոսկվան կատարում է Անկարայի քմահաճույքները


    Ռուսաստանն ու Թուրքիան բանակցում են հինգերորդ սերնդի Սու-57 կործանիչների մատակարարման շուրջ: Այս մասին հայտնել է Թուրքիայի նախագահ Ռեջեբ Թայիփ Էրդողանը: ԱՄՆ-ն ավելի վաղ հայտարարել էր, որ Թուրքիան չի ստանա ամերիկյան f-35 կործանիչներ, եթե չհրաժարվի ռուսական Ս-400 զենիթահրթիռային համալիրներ գնելուց:
    Թուրքիան, խաղալով մի ուղղությամբ, փորձում է օգուտներ քաղել ուրիշ ուղղություններից: Մասնավորապես, Էրդողանի մասնակցությունը Ռուսաստանում անցկացված սպառազինության ցուցահանդեսին եւ Սու-57 գնելու խոստումն Էրդողանին օգնել է կանգնեցնել սիրիական բանակի հաղթական ընթացքը, որը գրեթե դուրս էր մղում թուրքական ստորաբաժանումները Իդլիբից ու վերականգնում էր տարածքային ամբողջականությունը:
    Սիրիայի կառավարական զորքերը օգոստոսի 31-ին ժամը 6:00-ից պետք է դադարեցնեն կրակը Իդլիբի ապաէսկալացիոն գոտում: Այս մասին նշված է Հակամարտող կողմերի հաշտեցման ռուսական կենտրոնի հաղորդագրությունում: Հրադադարի ռեժիմը հաստատվելու է Դամասկոսի կողմից միակողմանիորեն, նշված է փաստաթղթում:
    Սիրիայի Իդլիբ նահանգում Թուրքիայի զինված ուժերի երկու դիտորդական կետերի ուղղությամբ կրակ է բացվել, հայտարարել է Էրդողանը: «Պուտինի հետ մեր հանդիպումից հետո Դամասկոսին արվել են անհրաժեշտ նախազգուշացումները», – Էրդողանի խոսքը մեջբերում է «Անադոլուն»:
    Էրդողանն ընդգծել է նաեւ, որ Իդլիբում իրավիճակը զարգանում է Թուրքիայի համար անցանկալի ուղղությամբ: «Իդլիբում դեպքերը ծավալվում են ոչ այնպես, ինչպես մենք կցանկանայինք: Դրանք հանգեցնում են սիրիացիների զանգվածային ներհոսքի դեպի Թուրքիա»:
    Ընդ որում, Էրդողանը նշել է, որ Թուրքիայի ու ԱՄՆ զինվորականները շարունակում են քննարկել անվտանգության գոտու դետալները: «Ավելի վաղ խոսել եմ Թրամփի հետ, որ այդ գոտու լայնությունը կկազմի 20 մղոն: Հետո ամերիկացի զինվորականները ցանկացան կրճատել այդ գոտին: Շուտով կբացվի ՄԱԿ Գլխավոր ասամբլեան, որի շրջանակում Թրամփի հետ նորից կհանդիպենք ու կքննարկենք այս հարցերը», – ասել է Թրամփը:
    Ռուսաստանը երաշխավորել է Թուրքիային, որ սիրիական զորքերը չեն գրոհի Իդլիբում թուրքական դիտորդական կետերի վրա, ասել է Թուրքիայի ԱԳ նախարար Մեւլյութ Չավուշօղլուն:
    Ռուսաստանը համաձայնվում է Էրդողանի բոլոր առաջարկներին: Ուկրաինայի նախագահ Վլադիմիր Զելենսկին Էրդողանի հետ հեռախոսով քննարկել է վերջինիս Ռուսաստան այցի արդյունքները: Ռուսաստանի համար Ուկրաիան զգայուն հարց է, հատկապես այն ամենը, ինչ կապված է Ղրիմի հետ, որը մի քանի հարյուրամյակ Օսմանյան կայսրության մաս է եղել: Էրդողանը խաղում է Պուտինի թուլությունների ու վախերի վրա:
    Մոսկովիան մի քանի դար կառավարվել է թաթար խաների յառլիկներով: Պուտինյան Ռուսաստանը շարունակում է ապրել «Ոսկե հորդայի» ռեժիմում

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  • Vrej1915

    Ո՞վ է ավելի վտանգավոր. թո՞ւրքը, թե՞ քուրդը. «Կիսալուսնի մայրամուտը»


    Այս թողարկումը տեսագրվել է 2018. մարտի 16-ին

    Թուրքերի ու քրդերի պայքարում մեզանից շատերը քրդերին են «երկրպագում»՝ մտածելով, որ եթե նրանց հաջողվի մի կտոր հող պոկել Թուրքիայից, մասնատել այդ երկիրը, ապա դա մեզ համար սև սրտի մխիթարանք կլինի: Ասենք, թե Թուրքիան մասնատվեց, մի մասը դարձավ Քուրդիստան, մյուսը՝ Հունաստան, երրորդը՝ Պոնտոս և այլն: Ի՞նչ ենք մենք շահելու, եթե այդ մասերից ոչ մեկը Հայաստան չի դառնալու: Քրդերն այդ հողերը մեզ վերադարձնելու համար չեն արյուն թափում, հիմարություն է մտածել, թե այսքան պայքարելուց հետո մեզ սկուտեղի վրա մատուցելու են Արևմտյան Հայաստանը: Աշխարհն էլ քրդերին որպես զոհ է ընկալում, որը հիմա պայքարում է ցեղասպանող Թուրքիայի դեմ: Եթե այդ «զոհը» հաջողի, ապա նա տիրոջ իրավունք է ստանալու մեր հողերի վրա: Հիմա հարց. ո՞վ է մեզ համար ավելի վտանգավոր

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