Ankara vows revenge as 7 Turkish soldiers killed in clashes near Syria’s Afrin

Ankara vows revenge as 7 Turkish soldiers killed in clashes near Syria’s Afrin
Seven Turkish soldiers were killed and a tank lost in Ankara’s ongoing military campaign against Kurdish militias in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region. The casualties marked the deadliest day for Turkey since the offensive began.

Five servicemen died in fighting near the settlement of Sheikh Haruz located north-east of Afrin, the Anadolu news agency reported, citing a statement issued by Turkey’s General Staff. The soldiers were killed as a Turkish tank came under attack, it said.

Earlier, the General Staff also reported about the death of two other Turkish soldiers. One was killed in clashes with local armed groups on Syrian territory, while another lost his life during an attack by what Ankara described as “terrorist groups” in Turkey’s Kilis province.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim vowed retaliatory strikes. “They will pay for this twice as much. We have given the necessary response instantly, and we continue to do so,” he said, apparently referring to the Kurdish militias, Anadolu reports. Following the attack on the tank near Sheikh Haruz, Turkey launched airstrikes targeting shelters, hideouts and ammunition depots of local armed groups.

On Saturday, the Turkish General Staff said 899 fighters of the Syrian Kurdish militias – People’s Protection Units (YPG), Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) terrorists – were “neutralized” since the launch of Operation Olive Branch. It added that 13 Turkish soldiers were killed and 57 wounded since the start of the operation.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s troops are closing in on Afrin’s city center as Operation Olive Branch entered its third week. “We are close,” he said Saturday at his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) congress in the eastern Turkish province of Bitlis.

Ankara is targeting the YPG, a Kurdish-led militia it considers a wing of the armed and banned PKK. The YPG controls several enclaves in northern Syria, including Afrin. It secured the territories from Islamist rebels and other extremist groups over the course of the Syrian conflict with crucial backing from the US-led coalition.

Ankara launched air strikes against Kurdish positions late in January, with its troops advancing into the Kurd-held territories. A number of Turkish towns and villages along the Syrian border have meanwhile been hit by rocket strikes.

Turkey claims it seeks to secure its borders by pushing back what it calls “terrorist groups.” The Syrian government, though, has condemned the Turkish operation and considers the incursion a violation of Syrian sovereignty.

An estimated 5,000 civilians were displaced during the first days of the military campaign, according to the UN. UNICEF said at least 23 children have been killed as a result of fighting in the Syrian provinces of Afrin, Idlib, Saraqab, Khan Shaykhoun and the capital Damascus. Local Kurdish sources maintain that 141 civilians were killed, Syria’s state news agency SANA reported.


Muslim leaders declare ‘East Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine’

A summit of Islamic nations has issued a unified response to counter the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “not impressed” by the declaration.

Watch video02:23

Muslim nations back Palestinians

A final communique, agreed by delegates from all 57 members from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Wednesday, called on “all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and East Jerusalem as its occupied capital.”

Wednesday’s emergency summit in Istanbul, called by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came in response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition last week of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Read more: Turkey and Israel: Animosity ends when it comes to money

Muslim leaders “rejected and condemned” Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, saying in the declaration that they considered it to be “null and void legally.” They also invited the US president to rescind the “unlawful decision that might trigger chaos in the region.”

Trump’s announcement was “a deliberate undermining of all peace efforts” that would give impetus to “extremism and terrorism,” the declaration said.

The White House said it is still committed to reaching peace in the Middle East , and will remain “hard at work putting together our plan, which will benefit the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

But Erdogan told delegates that Trump’s actions meant the US could no longer be an unbiased broker.

Watch video03:23

Erdogan calls for recognition of East Jerusalem as capital of Palestine – DW’s Dorian Jones

Netanyahu: ‘Not impressed’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded later Wednesday, criticizing the Muslim leaders’ plea for countries to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.

“We are not impressed by all these statements,” he said in a speech. “It is better for the Palestinians to recognize reality and act for peace, not for radicalization, and to recognize another fact about Jerusalem: not only is it the capital of Israel, we also maintain respect in Jerusalem for the freedom of worship for all religions.”

Erdogan’s decries Israeli ‘occupation’

Jerusalem’s status remains one of the core issues of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel captured the predominantly Arab eastern part of the holy city during the 1967 Middle East war. Its claim to the entire city, which it sees as the ancient capital of the Jewish people, was never internationally recognized. Trump reversed that policy last week.

Erdogan at the OIC meeting (Reuters/K. Ozer)Erdogan called the meeting of OIC members

The US president’s decision on Jerusalem provoked worldwide condemnation from leaders, Arab and otherwise, and sparked violent protests across the Middle East, particularly in the Israeli-occupied territories Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians also lay claim to Jerusalem and have repeatedly insisted during peace negotiations that the eastern part of the city be the capital of their future state.

Speaking at the summit on Wednesday, Erdogan told delegates: “With this decision [by the US to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital], Israel, which is responsible for occupation, blockade, unlawful settlements, home demolitions, evictions, land asset appropriations, disproportionate violence and murders, was rewarded for all its terrorist actions.”

The Turkish president, who has presented himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, warned last week that US recognition of Jerusalem would plunge the world “into a fire with no end” and labeled Israel a “terrorist state.”

Last week’s clashes between Palestinian youths and with Israeli security forces led to two deaths among the protestors.

However, no state has yet announced any concrete measures against the US or Israel.

Watch video06:27

Israeli ambassador speaks to DW about Jerusalem

Abbas: UN should broker peace talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told OIC delegates that his people would refuse any role for the US in future peace talks following Trump’s declaration.

“We do not accept any role of the United States in the political process from now on because it is completely biased towards Israel,” Abbas said.

Abbas said Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital as “the greatest crime” that showed it was no longer “fit” to broker talks. Instead, the Palestinian president said he wanted to see the United Nations taking charge of the peace process and the creation of a new mechanism.

Read more: US embassy move to Jerusalem could spark ‘third intifada’ Germany’s former ambassador says

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, accused the United States of lacking any respect for the Palestinians and their rights to a nation. Arriving at the summit, Rouhani posted on Twitter that Trump’s move showed that the US was not “an honest mediator and will never be,” adding that Washington wanted only to “secure the interests of the Zionists.”

The recent decision by the US admin made it clear that the US is only seeking to secure the maximum interests of the Zionists and has no respect for the legitimate rights of Palestinians. The US has never been an honest mediator and will never be. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II also warned that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was “dangerous and destabilizing decision.”

Jordan, which along with Egypt is one of only two Arab nations with diplomatic ties to Israel, stressed that “our region cannot enjoy peace without the two-state solution,” referring to the peace mechanism that would see Israelis and Palestinians granted their own separate state.

Uniting Arab opinion – an impossible task?

Turkey, however, faces the monumental task of bridging the Muslim political community, which includes regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Many close allies of the United States — including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — are unlikely to risk souring their relationship with Washington by endorsing an OIC statement condemning Israel.

Read more: Israel and Saudi Arabia: New best friends in the Middle East?

However, despite not attending the OIC summit, Saudi King Salman echoed calls from Istanbul that eastern Jerusalem be handed back to the Palestinians. Salman reportedly told the kingdom’s Consultative Council: “The kingdom has called for a political solution to resolve regional crises, foremost of which is the Palestinian issue and the restoration of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights, including the right to establish their independent state with east Jerusalem as its capital.”

dm/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)


Erdogan slams Israel as ‘terrorist state’ that ‘kills children’

Erdogan slams Israel as ‘terrorist state’ that ‘kills children’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out against Israel Sunday, calling it a ‘terrorist state’ that ‘kills children.’ Erdogan promised to fight to the bitter end against Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.

“Palestine is an innocent victim… as for Israel, it is a terrorist state, yes, terrorist!” Erdogan said at a congress of his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) in the Turkish city of Sivas on Sunday. “We will not abandon Jerusalem to the mercy of a state that kills children,” he added.

As for the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, despite the Palestinians viewing the eastern part of the city as the capital of its future sovereign state, Erdogan promised to use “all means to fight” it, according to AFP.

Violent clashes have continued in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for several days after Trump’s announcement on Wednesday. Two Palestinians were killed and over 1,000 people injured on Friday, with a further 230 wounded on Saturday, as Israeli security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon at the protesters.

Erdogan blasted Israel as an “oppressive, occupation state,”calling the response of the police and military to the protests “disproportionate,” Hurriyet reported.

“The US ignored a 1980 UN Security Council ruling regarding Jerusalem which the US itself signed at that time,”Erdogan said as cited by the Daily Sabah. “A system in which the stronger one is regarded as being right can’t constitute justice, peace and stability,” he said, adding that the American approach could lead to more tragedies.

In response to Erdogan’s remarks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retorted that that his Turkish counterpart was hardly one to talk.

“I’m not used to receiving lectures about morality from a leader who bombs Kurdish villages in his native Turkey, who jails journalists” said Netanyahu, adding that Erdogan “helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people.”

“That is not the man who will lecture us.”

Trump’s announcement faced widespread international condemnation and was backed only by Israel, which has been pushing for Jerusalem to be recognized as its capital for decades. The leaders of France, Germany and other European nations have all agreed that the US move is dangerous and harmful to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, urging the US to abide by international agreements. The Arab League also rejected the American decision, saying on Saturday that it amounted to recognition of the illegal occupation of East Jerusalem by Israel, and ipso facto had no legal basis.

Courtesy: RT

Trump’s Jerusalem decision puts the Middle East on knife’s edge

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Arab leaders rebuke Trump’s Jerusalem decision 02:00

Wardah Khalid is an analyst, activist, and speaker on Middle East, refugee, and Muslim-American issues. Follow her on Twitter @wardahkhalid_. The views expressed in this commentary are her own.

(CNN)Donald Trump’s announcement, on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the US Embassy to the Holy City, appeared, at least on the surface, chiefly ceremonial.

His message provided no specifics on how it might bring peace to the Middle East and seemed aimed at appeasing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and supporters who voted him into office.
Wardah Khalid

But no ceremony can escape the very real, negative consequences that could transpire as a result of the shift in longstanding US policy, including a complete delegitimization of the US’s role in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, regional instability, and loss of key Arab and Muslim allies.
“While previous presidents have made this a major campaign promise, they failed to deliver. Today, I am delivering,” Trump said in a speech Wednesday afternoon.
But away from the public eye, he did the exact opposite. Trump quietly followed the example of recent US presidents and signed a waiver to keep the US Embassy in Tel Aviv for the next six months. And he will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future, since an embassy move could take years.
So why the hullaballoo? Perhaps Trump thought the decision would be the best of both worlds — tough talk with little sacrifice and a means to support Israel and tacitly challenge Iran, much like his one off, unsuccessful airstrike in Syria.
However, international leaders are right to be concerned. This announcement essentially legitimizes Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, which the international community unanimously rejected in UN Security Council Resolution 242. After the announcement was made, UN Ambassador Nikki Haleyinsisted that President Trump was not deciding who controlled the area, but the reality is hard to ignore.
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy there will have a detrimental impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, a process that many suspect was never an honest priority for the US.
Perhaps most grave is the likely escalation of Israeli military occupation and settlement building on Palestinian land — a situation that would be completely contrary and detrimental to the peace process.
Enhanced occupation would continue decades of depriving Palestinian men, women, and children of basic human rights such as freedom of movement, access to resources, and freedom from cruel and degrading treatment.
Palestinian leaders have called for three days of demonstration in response. Gazans, Turks, and Jordanians have already taken to the streets in protest. It is not a stretch to fear tensions between Israelis and Palestinians will escalate as they did during the summer over metal detector installations at Al Aqsa. Nor is it unreasonable to worry about a full-blown third Intifada, which could result in numerous deaths on both sides. The State Department not only issued a travel warning for the area, but it also set up an emergency task forceto deal with the fallout that could result.
This is because the illegality of Israel’s occupation of Palestine is something that virtually the entire Muslim world agrees on.
Trump’s meddling in this is perilous for US foreign policy. In fact, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) — which consists of 57 Muslim and Arab member states — condemned“illegal” measures to impose Israeli authority over Jerusalem “given the grave consequences and threats this presents to international peace and security.”
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Many of the OIC’s members, including Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, are allies in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria and are home to US military bases, potentially endangering US military personnel. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said that the recognition of Jerusalem would be a “red line” for Muslims and warned that Turkey could respond by cutting off diplomatic ties with Israel. Other countries could also follow suit.
US allies in Asia and Europe have also expressed concern, with eight countries — including France and the UK — requesting an emergency UN meeting. This is certainly not a good position for the US to be in.
History will determine the true impact of Trump’s decision. But breaking from the rest of the world in order to make good on a campaign promise is not symbolic — it is dangerous.
Courtesy: CNN

Why Flynn’s guilty plea is bad news for Team Trump

Michael Flynn’s guilty plea Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI about conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, does not bode well for the Trump administration and for the president and his family personally

Flynn, who briefly served as President Trump’s national security adviser and earlier was involved in the Trump presidential campaign and presidential transition team, promised full cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

The White House continues to maintain that Flynn does not have any information that could implicate or incriminate President Trump

Court documents show Flynn told investigators that a “very senior member” of the Trump transition team directed him to contact foreign governments, including Russia, about a United Nations vote.

There is now for the first time the hint of evidence that there was potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that this collusion may have been carried out at the highest level.

And Fox News reported: “While it is unclear who Flynn himself is prepared to name, Fox News has been told by a former senior intelligence officer with knowledge of Trump transition activities that then-President-Elect Trump directed Flynn during that period to contact the Russians – while also directing him and his team to contact 12 other countries.”

As a result, there is now for the first time the hint of evidence that there was potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and that this collusion may have been carried out at the highest level.

To be sure, this is one side of the story. President Trump had repeatedly said there was no such collusion. So has the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Some have speculated that Kushner is the unnamed “senior member” of the transition team who directed Flynn to make foreign contacts.

But if there is anyone who can show that there potentially was collusion it is Flynn.

Indeed, the fact that Flynn has only been charged with one count is remarkable, given that all evidence suggests that he has apparently colluded with the Russians himself during the 2016 presidential campaign. Not to mention his history of concealing work that he did for the Turkish government and working on behalf of Russia while advising Trump’s campaign.

Just consider the laundry list of allegations made against the retired Army lieutenant general.

First, Flynn failed to disclose the more than $500,000 he received from a Turkish businessman and crony of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for lobbying and research work that his firm – Flynn Intel Group, Inc. – did to discredit an exiled cleric who Erdogan wants returned to Turkey from the U.S.

And Flynn wrote an op-ed on behalf of Turkey – headlined “Our ally Turkey is in crisis and needs our support” – while he was working for candidate Trump.

Even more disquieting, Flynn is under investigation for a meeting during which he allegedly discussed a plan for him and his son to receive $15 million in exchange for kidnapping the exiled cleric.

Lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador in December 2016 is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Flynn’s Russian ties. He also failed to list payments from Russia-linked entities on the first of two federal financial disclosure forms he was required to fill out to become national security adviser. Nor did he list the speeches he was paid to deliver by Russian state-owned television network RT.

As the first former administration official who has been charged as part of Mueller’s Russia investigation, the charges against Flynn alone make it difficult to distance President Trump from Mueller’s probe.

And now that Flynn is cooperating with the FBI and is prepared to testify, he has effectively brought the special counsel’s investigation onto the White House front lawn.

Based on my own experience working on campaigns, it is very well within the realm of possibility that President Trump was aware – if not responsible for – Flynn’s communications with the Russians over the course of the 2016 presidential campaign. But this possibility remains unproven, as far as we know from what has been made public.

Anyone who has worked on a presidential campaign knows that most important rule is that you always tell your principal what you are doing. So it is entirely plausible that Flynn’s communications could have been carried out at the direction of a senior member of the Trump campaign team, if not the candidate himself. We don’t know what Mueller and his team know, so whether this happened remains to be established in the public record

It is certainly questionable that Flynn stayed in touch with the Russians while he was on the campaign trail without candidate Trump knowing about it, as the White House maintains

Now that Flynn is expected to testify against the president, what he did or did not do with Donald Trump will now be the critical issue going forward.

Douglas E. Schoen is a Fox News contributor. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. His new book is “Putin’s Master Plan“. Follow him on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.

Courtesy: Fox News


Syria Is Currently Host to Thousands of Foreign Troops: Who Are They and Will They Leave?

Assad’s rule is extremely reliant on continued assistance from Iranian-sponsored militias, which have spread across the war-ravaged country

The Associated Press Nov 28, 2017 12:56 PM
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This Tuesday, March 7, 2017 file frame grab from video provided by Arab 24 network, shows U.S. forces take up positions on the outskirts of the Syrian town, Manbij Arab 24 network, via AP, File
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Syria’s long-running civil war may be winding down slowly, but the country is awash in weapons and a confounding array of local militias and thousands of foreign troops, some of which may never leave.
With crucial aid from allies Iran and Russia, President Bashar Assad has regained control over large areas of Syria in advances that appear to have put to rest the possibility of a military overthrow, at least for now. But his rule is extremely reliant on continued assistance from Iranian-sponsored militias, which have spread across the war-ravaged country.

The fight against the Islamic State group, which proliferated soon after the conflict began in 2011, has provided a convenient justification for foreign troops to be deployed in Syria with the pretext of fighting the extremists. Now that IS no longer holds any significant urban territory in Syria, the numbers of some forces may be scaled down, but foreign powers with longer-term ambitions and interests will try to maintain a presence in the country for years to come. That will further complicate prospects for a peace settlement.
Some countries have already indicated that they plan to stay for the foreseeable future.
The Americans
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The presence of U.S. troops in northern Syria was initially meant to help train and support Kurdish-dominated local forces fighting the Islamic State group.
The number of troops has grown gradually. Although the official limit on U.S. troops has remained at 503 since shortly before President Barack Obama left office, the actual number is now believed to be more than 1,500, including special forces, a Marine artillery unit, forward air controllers and others. They are spread across more than a dozen bases in northern Syria.

The end of the fight against IS takes away any legal justification for the presence of U.S. troops in Syria, but U.S. officials are now suggesting they plan to maintain a U.S. troop presence in the north until an overall settlement for the war is found. That has raised concern about a more permanent project that risks drawing the U.S. into a conflict with Syria and Assad’s ally, Iran.
“We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has cracked,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said earlier this month, referring to the U.N.-backed political talks.
Kurdish officials have asked the U.S. to stay on, fearing that a quick withdrawal would facilitate Assad’s forces swooping in on Kurdish-held territory in the north.
Earlier this month, the Syrian government called on the United States to withdraw its forces now that the fight against the Islamic State group is nearly over. The Foreign Ministry statement said the presence of U.S. troops will not force a political solution to the conflict.
The Russians
Russia has never said how many of its military personnel, warplanes and other weapons are in Syria. Turnout figures in voting from abroad in the September 2016 parliamentary election indicated the number of Russian military personnel in Syria at the time was about 4,300. The Russian presence has likely increased, as Moscow this year deployed its military police to patrol so-called “de-escalation zones” in Syria.
Open-source materials — including video from the Hemeimeem air base, the main hub for the Russian military in Syria since its campaign began in September 2015 — indicate that Russia has several dozen jets and helicopter gunships there.
Russia also has deployed special forces to conduct intelligence and coordinate airstrikes. Senior Russian military officers also have helped train and direct Syrian government troops. In recent months, Russian military police have become increasingly visible in Syria.
The chief of the Russian military general staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, said last week that Russia will “significantly” reduce its military foothold in Syria as the campaign nears its end.
At the same time, he indicated Russia will maintain a presence at both the Hemeimeem air base and the navy supply facility in Tartus. Gerasimov added that the military’s Reconciliation Center, a group of officers who have helped negotiate and maintain truces in Syria and coordinated the delivery of humanitarian aid, also will stay.
Syria has allowed Russia to use Hemeimeem air base indefinitely without cost. Moscow also has signed a deal with Syria to use the Tartus base for 49 years, which could be extended if both parties agree.
The Russian military plans to modernize the air base to allow it to host more warplanes. It also intends to expand the Tartus facility significantly to make it a full-scale naval base capable of hosting warships, including cruiser-sized vessels.
The Iranians
Of all the foreign troops in Syria, perhaps none have been as widespread and potentially lasting as the Iranians. The Islamic Republic of Iran has made an enormous effort to keep Assad in power, providing extensive military and financial support throughout the six-year civil war.
It has deployed Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Syria as well as Iranian officers who provide military and political support. Iranian officials say more than 1,000 Iranian fighters have been killed in Syria and Iraq after they were deployed to defend Shiite holy shrines.
Tens of thousands of Iranian-sponsored pro-government local militias known as the National Defense Forces are deployed across Syria, in addition to Iraqi Shiite militias and thousands of Iranian-backed Hezbollah fighters from Lebanon who have been key factors in turning the war in the government’s favor. Hezbollah is deployed in wide areas along Syria’s border with Lebanon, where the Shiite group has built military facilities and long-term bases it is unlikely to leave anytime soon.
Iran’s strategy aims to ensure it can continue to pursue its vital interests after the war, using parts of Syria as a base and making certain that a land corridor from Tehran to Beirut remains open.
The Turks
Turkey first sent ground forces into Syria last year in a campaign dubbed “Operation Euphrates Shield.” It was aimed at fighting the Islamic State group, although Turkey also seeks, above all, to limit the expansion of Syria’s Kurds along its border with Syria. Ankara perceives the Syrian Kurdish fighters to be an extension of the Kurdish insurgents who have waged a three- decade insurgency in Turkey.
Turkish officials have not disclosed how many Turkish soldiers are deployed in Syria but security experts estimate that at least 2,500 troops are stationed in a swath of territory revolving around the towns of al-Rai, al-Bab and Jarablus — a border zone that Turkey and Turkey-backed rebels took back from IS last year under “Euphrates Shield.”
An estimated 400 more Turkish troops are in the Idlib region as part of an agreement reached among Turkey, Russia and Iran to create a “de-escalation zone” in the area.
Turkey is building schools and hospitals in areas liberated under “Euphrates Shield” to encourage the return of refugees, and it was unclear how long the Turkish troops would stay in the zone.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that the Turkish troops could target a Syrian Kurdish group that Turkey considers to be a security threat in the Afrin region, north of Idlib, once the “de-escalation” mission is over.

The Associated Press

Courtesy: Haaretz

‘US betrayal of Kurds an attempt to fix troubled relations with Turkey & failed Syria policy’

Syrian Kurdish militias will feel betrayed and will likely align closer with Damascus, if Donald Trump indeed delivers on his promise to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and “adjusts” US military support for the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, experts have told RT.

In a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Friday, Trump briefed Erdogan on “pending adjustments for [US] military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.” Turkish Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, who was present during the call, said Trump explicitly promised to “not provide weapons to the YPG,” which Ankara considers a terrorist organization affiliated with the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

But without support from Washington, Kurds are likely to seek closer ties with Damascus to resolve the Syria crisis and retain the country’s unity, investigative journalist, Rick Sterling told RT.

“What may happen, is that they may recognize and start working more closely with the Syrian government. Of course, they have never been fighting against the Syrian government forces. And I think what may happen here is that YPG will align and make it very clear that they are not seeking a federation or anything like that but they will be part of a future Syria,” Sterling said.

Trump’s intention to backtrack on his support for the Kurds, experts believe, is part of an attempt to “adjust” failing US policy on Syria, following a number of recent diplomatic markers, achieved with Russia’s direct and dynamic input. Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Syrian leader Bashar Assad in Sochi. He later convened a summit on the future of Syria with the leaders of Iran and Turkey, where all parties endorsed an initiative to convene an all-Syrian national dialogue. The developments in Syria were also discussed between Putin and Trump Tuesday, during a more than an hour-long phone conversation.

“What is happening in Syria involves basically a failure of US foreign policy. What I mean is that Washington had allied with the Saudis regarding backing religious zealots. However, with the intervention of Russia, and Iran, and Hezbollah of Lebanon, these forces defeated the so-called Islamic State, defeated the religious zealots and therefore US policy is now scrambling to try to find an alternative to that failed policy,” historian Gerald Horne explained.

“The timing [of Trump-Erdogan phone call] is being driven by Russia’s role in seeking a solution and really making a lot of progress in resolving the conflict, bringing different parties together to the table,” Sterling pointed out.

Sterling warned that some forces in Washington do not want peace to prevail in Syria. Furthermore, there is a chance that Washington might ally itself with Ankara’s troops in Syria, who are officially on the ground there to monitor the Idlib de-escalation zone, one of four established by Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran earlier this year. Erdogan, however, made little secret of the fact that Turkish forces might challenge the Kurdish stronghold of Afrin in northern Syria.

“There has been a lot of Turkish troops going into Northern Syria, so it may be that Washington will align more closely with Turkish troops which will refuse to leave Syria,” Sterling said. “I think what is going on in Washington is that there is uncertainty how to handle the situation. There are forces in Washington that want to play a spoiler in this [achieving peace]. They don’t want to see a resolution to the conflict, and that is what is dangerous.”

Washington’s decision to back away from the YPG, which has been the core of the US-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is nothing less of a “betrayal,” experts told RT.

“The Kurds have been betrayed many times in the past,” Sterling said. “They will not be surprised by this. And they have probably been making plans for some time that their patron, the United States, will abandon them.”

“The Kurds are in a corner” following the Iraqi Kurdistan independence referendum in September, which regional powers and the US failed to recognize, Horne said. “If the Kurds are getting a raw deal, this will not be the first time they have been traduced at the hands of Washington,” he added. He noted that following the Erdogan-Trump call, the “Kurds are really over a barrel.”

Courtesy: RT
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