Historians recall ‘most humiliating’ WWI British defeat

By Michael Sercan Daventry

LONDON (AA) – Friday marks the centenary of one of the most significant British surrenders to Ottoman forces during World War I, which some historians still remember it as the then empire’s most humiliating defeat.

Precisely one hundred years ago on April 29, 1916, a British-Indian garrison laid down its arms to the Ottoman forces they were fighting in the town of Kut al-Amara in modern-day Iraq.

The city was a key step for a force of 13,000 British and Indian troops marching under Major-General Charles Townshend towards Baghdad, a target about 160 kilometers (99.4 miles) northwest along the Tigris River.

They were surrounded by Ottoman forces at Kut and, after a siege lasting around five months, Townshend capitulated.

In the words of Nikolas Gardner, associate professor at the Royal Military College of Canada, it was “the most humiliating surrender of British forces since Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War in 1781.”

It was already a difficult time for Britain’s war effort. Its forces had just withdrawn from Gallipoli, where it failed to break through Turkish defenses in an attempt to capture Istanbul.

Irish republicans had just launched an armed uprising in Dublin. And movement was glacial on the European front, where Allied and German troops were stationed across each other in trenches stretching from the North Sea to the Swiss border.

The initial reaction from British officials to the surrender at Kut was to play down its significance.

Stephen Badsey, professor of conflict studies at the University of Wolverhampton, said Britain’s poor military planning was not immediately clear back in London.

“The British generals in charge successfully concealed the extent of their problems, with transport and with medical evacuation in particular, and the scale of the defeat was not realized at first,” Badsey told Anadolu Agency.

In an editorial on May 1, 1916, The Times newspaper said the surrender had “very limited military importance” and the town of Kut itself was “a squalid little Arab town set in the loop of the river.”

But Gardner said it was seen differently behind closed doors.

“The British saw the defeat at Kut as a major blow to their prestige in the Middle East and India. Part of the rationale for attempting to capture Baghdad in the autumn of 1915 was to enhance Britain’s prestige, particularly among Muslim subjects of the British Empire in India and Egypt.

“A war against the Ottoman Empire was problematic for many Muslims, and British authorities were concerned in 1915 that the failure of the Gallipoli campaign would increase Muslim support for the Ottomans.

“The capture of Baghdad was seen as a way of restoring Britain’s image as the preeminent power in the Middle East and South Asia. This plan backfired when Townshend’s division surrendered at Kut,” he told AA.

And even the Times’s editorial on May 1, 1916, could not ignore the scale of the defeat entirely: “The responsibility for the decision which has led to the unfortunate capitulation of the garrison of Kut must be probed to the bottom without delay.

“Why was this small force sent marching through deserts hundreds of miles from the sea to take a city which the Turks were given ample time to reinforce and protect?

“The ultimate responsibility for the attempt to advance to Baghdad rests with the Cabinet in London, and minsters must explain their action if they can. There was never any military justification for an advance beyond Kut.”

But in the context of the entire Mesopotamian campaign of the First World War, Kut’s significance can be overstated.

Historian Caroline Finkel points out in her Ottoman Empire chronicle “Osman’s Dream” that although “Kut still figures in the Turkish imagination as an Ottoman victory,” Baghdad still fell to the British the following year.

Retired colonel Patrick Crowley, author of “Kut 1916: The Forgotten British Disaster in Iraq”, said the defeat inspired commanders to take a new approach in Mesopotamia.

Crowley told Anadolu Agency: “After the failure of Kut, the British Empire did not take any chances in the Mesopotamia campaign. General Maude took control of the Army there and made sure that before he advanced, he had all the necessary resources.

“He defeated the Ottomans and then occupied Baghdad in March 1917.”

Nigeria, France agree to intensify military cooperation

By Murat Unlu

PARIS (AA) – France and Nigeria have signed a new military cooperation agreement, which includes intelligence sharing and joint operations, according to the French Defense Ministry.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Nigerian Defense Minister Mansur Dan Ali signed the agreement in Paris on Thursday, which calls for closer military cooperation plus strengthening the fight against the terrorist organization Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region.

Since December 2014, the two countries have been working more closely together, in particularly to combat terrorism against Boko Haram militants.

According to the agreement, France will share intelligence information that will be collected from the French Rafale fighter aircraft at the N’djamena base.

According to Nigeria local media, Ali said: “Nigeria is signing the agreement because it is a global threat, therefore, most countries of the world at this time are uniting to fight it with a view to restoring the shared values of peace and tolerance for development.”

Le Drian also said his country’s primary aim was to “fight against terrorism and particularly against Boko Haram.”

The agreement also includes maritime security and countering piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off Nigeria’s oil-rich south, which has reportedly increased in recent months.

On April 11, the private Turkish tanker Puli, a merchant vessel, designed to transport liquids or gases in bulk, was seized by Nigerian pirate gangs along with six Turkish crew members.

The French media also said that an upcoming regional security summit is scheduled to take place in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on May 14, which would see the attendance of French president as well as representatives from Britain and the United States.

*Anadolu Agency Correspondent Hatice Kesgin contributed to this story from Ankara.

Turkey to vows boost trade economic ties with Iran

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey aims to increase economic and trade ties with its neighbor Iran following the lifting of international sanctions, Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Bulent Tufenkci said in Ankara Friday.

In remarks made at Anadolu Agency Editors’ Desk, Tufenkci said: “We believe economic relations between Turkey and Iran will gain a significant momentum with the lifting of sanctions.”

He said the Gurbulak-Bazargan customs gate between the two countries will be rebuilt.

In 2015, trade volume between the two sides reached $10 billion. According to the minister, the plan is to increase the volume to $30 billion level in the coming years.

About support for businesses in southeast Turkey, Tufenkci said the Turkish government is ready to offer support to shop owners in areas where an anti-PKK operation remains ongoing.

“Our aim is to reconstruct all shops destroyed in the operation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Tufenkci also revealed government plans to send a new “check and suspension of bankruptcy” bill to parliament in the coming days.

A number of Turkish companies are said to be benefiting from a recent easing of bankruptcy regulations, which some unfairly use as a tool to melt down their debt stock.

Tufenkci also said that narcotics and contraband worth 2.7 billion Turkish liras ($962 million) were seized during operations at Turkish customs in 2015.

“In the first quarter of 2016, contraband goods with a worth of 752 million lira ($267 million) were seized by the custom officials. Turkey is above the world average on catching contraband goods. Thanks to hard work by Turkish customs officials,” he added.

US military uniform found in southeast Turkey operation

ANKARA (AA) – Turkish security forces found a uniform used by the U.S. armed forces during counter-terrorism operations in Nusaybin in southeastern Mardin province early Friday, an unnamed security source said.

According to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking with the media, security forces also found weapons and medical equipment during the operation in southeast Turkey early Friday.

Nusaybin district has been the focus of a counter-terrorism operation since mid-March.

In the recent past, the PKK terrorists reportedly vandalized mosques in the district.

The PKK – also seen as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU – resumed its 30-year armed campaign against the Turkish state in July 2015.

Since then, over 400 security personnel, including troops, police officers and village guards have been martyred and more than 3,700 PKK terrorists killed in operations across Turkey and northern Iraq.

British Imam calls Cameron “racist” and “Islamophobic”

Muslim cleric in London demands apology from UK PM

– Gani, British Muslim cleric who was linked to Daesh by Cameron, says name being tarnished to hurt Labour mayoral candidate

Muslim cleric calls British PM ‘racist’ for tarnishing name

Muslim cleric in London slams British PM’s ‘racist’ views

By Busra Akin Dincer

LONDON (AA) – A London-based Muslim preacher has demanded a formal apology from the British premier for labeling him as a Daesh supporter in the parliament in the run-up to the mayoral elections.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency Thursday, Suliman Gani said he was shocked by Prime Minister David Camron’s allegations, which he described them as racist and Islamophobic.

“I could not believe it. I was really, utterly, deeply shocked. How is it possible for such a serious, serious, allegation made against myself.

“What was even more shocking was being singled out, my name to be mentioned. It is not an ordinary personality, it is the Prime Minister of the country. That I found it very, very Islamophobic, very racist,” Gani said.

On April 20, Cameron referred to Gani as an extremist during the prime minister’s question time in the parliament as he criticized London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan.

“I am concerned about Labour’s candidate as mayor,” the British prermier had said, adding: “Let me tell him, Suliman Gani – the honorable member for Tooting [Sadiq Khan] has appeared on a platform with him nine times. This man supports IS [Daesh]. I think they are shouting down this point because they don’t want to hear the truth.”

Gani, who is a former imam of a mosque in Tooting in south London, said it was shocking that such allegations had been leveled against him in front of all other parliamentarians without any investigation. “Where is the evidence?” he asked.

About the impact of the serious accusations on his life, Gani said he had been affected deeply, both professionally and personally.

He said he had been suspended from his duties on the basis that the allegations were a matter of “police investigation.” He has in fact not even left his neighborhood since the prime minister mentioned his name in the parliament.

Gani, who has six children, is especially concerned about safety for his family. “I feel insecure… not only for myself but for my family and my children. There are people who are right wing, who are already Islamphobic this going to add to the rise of Islamophobia and there is a great, strong possibility of personal attacks on myself,” he said.

Family members living abroad too are worried for him, he said as he emphasized the point that his entire family had been impacted by the allegations, even though he had always been a law-abiding British citizen, who worked for his community. He has been living in the U.K. since 1998.

He said the accusations had tarnished his reputation that he strived to build over the years.

“Those people who know me, the support is there. But my concern is because it [accusations] came from the prime minister, people would believe it. And they will not even investigate. They will say, Oh! prime minister said it. I found they [are keeping a] distance themselves from me. Because they do not want to be seen, sharing or sitting with a company whom [the] prime minister has accused of being a supporter of terrorism, extremism because Islamic State [Daesh] is a terrorist organization. It is very damaging to my reputation,” he said.

He repeated that neither did he have any criminal record nor did he support terror groups like Daesh.

“I do not have criminal record, never. I have never been stopped, questioned or investigated by the security services…I have nothing to hide. Whatever I say in private, whatever I say in public.

“There is no way that there is a shred of evidence that I support extremism [or] I support terrorism. I have in fact condemned it,” he said.

In fact, he claimed that he was a panelist at a conference titled “Evils of ISIS” early January this year.

He said it was clear that apart from tarnishing his name, the accusations had been made to discredit Labour candidate Khan in the upcoming elections

“It could be used as a political strategy to tarnish my image, damage my reputation, and also this is obviously to target, to discredit the mayoral candidate,” he said.

Also, he accused Cameron of being a racist.

“I believe he [Cameron] is racist. This is very clear. Personally, I have experienced it. I have no other words. Because it is very clear for me,” he said.

He said he was only a “victim” of the prime minister’s political agenda despite him being involved closely with Cameron’s Conservative Party campaign.

“I have been engaging and working and supporting and encouraging people to become councilor in the Conservative party. So it just did not make sense. My engagement some of the work for campaigning for justice was cross party.

“So, it was not only that I was working and participating with Labour candidates but also Conservative candidates. Why I am specifically singled out… it seems there is an agenda very close to the mayoral elections,” Gani said.

The cleric, who holds a master’s in Islamic studies from SOAS University of London, said he had even thought of voting for the Conservative mayoral candidate before accusations were hurled against him.

“I was seriously considering supporting Goldsmith. I was really considering. But after, when I was accused by Zac GoldSmith to be ‘the most repellent figure in the U.K.,’ I was shocked,” he said.

The preacher demanded an apology from Cameron.

“In strong terms, we want and we demand the prime minister to apologize. I am a citizen of this country and I feel it is only fair…If a prime minister of a country can make a such false accusation against a citizen then I fear the worst for the many of other citizens who maybe have nobody to defend, to support or to help them,” he said.

He also urged opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to raise the issue in the parliament.

About the option of suing Cameron, Gani said the prime minister could not be taken to court for remarks made in the parliament, a fact which he believes Cameron knew before he made the allegations.

“You have this parliamentary privilege, you are able to say, make this allegations and get away with it. Because I was informed also that if [those] very statements were made outside the parliament, he could be sued.”

But Gani said Cameron will not make such allegations outside the parliament. “Because there is no proof, no evidence, if he had done so…This is the challenge…We would pursue it and he would be sued for it. Obviously, this is defamation.”