October 16, 2019
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    Mid-East security threat as Turkey attacks Kurds

    October 12, 2019

    Turkish forces are stepping up air strikes and a ground offensive, as their incursion into Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria continues. There are reports of heavy fighting in the central border region, and seven civilian deaths. Tens of thousands of people are reported to be leaving their homes.

    In a largely confusing situation on the actions of the United States relating to the Kurdish people and forces on the Syria-Turkey border, Turkey’s military operations against Kurdish forces in northern Syria are leading to growing international fears of threats to regional security in the Middle East, and possible revival of IS forces.

    The attack by Turkish forces came after Sunday’s surprise announcement by President Trump that the United States would be pulling troops out of northeast Syria, leaving America’s Kurdish allies open to a long-threatened Turkish assault. The Kurdish forces had earlier supported US troops in defeating IS forces.

    Facing increasing protests from both Republican and Democrats in the US against the move to support the long planned Turkish military initiative in the region, President Trump has issued blunt warnings to Turkey’s that if they “go too far in Syria, I will destroy your economy”.

    Turkish forces supported by Syrian troops launched a ground offensive into Syrian territory against Kurdish forces. “Turkish Armed Forces and the Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates River as part of the Operation Peace Spring,” the Defence Ministry tweeted.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the offensive targeted Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group in northern Syria. “Our mission is to prevent the creation of a terror corridor across our southern border, and to bring peace to the area,” adding that the operation was also aimed at enabling the return of the Syrian refugees in Turkey.” We will preserve Syria's territorial integrity and liberate local communities from terrorists,” he added.

    In continuing confusion over the situation, US President Trump said that Washington “does not endorse” the Turkish assault, calling the operation “a bad idea”.

    The UN Security Council held a closed door meeting later this week following calls for a meeting by France, Germany and the United Kingdom, who very strongly condemn reports of the Turkish military operations.

    The UN Security Council's president, South African Ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, appealed to Turkey to “protect civilians” and exercise “maximum restraint” in its military operations.

    Responding to his critics in the US on his move to withdraw US troops in the region, leading to the Turkish action, President Trump said on Twitter: “If Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!),” Trump tweeted on Monday, as controversy about his announcement built. He added the next day that “unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency.”

    But hours after this warning, Turkey launched its military operation in Syria, against the Kurds. There is uncertainty whether Turkey was making a symbolic move inside the border, or whether Turkish forces are planning to press deeper into Syria and risk further conflict with Kurdish fighters.

    Trump has used U.S. economic might to punish Turkey before. Last August, Trump authorized a dramatic increase in tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum, as retaliation in a diplomatic standoff with Ankara over Turkey’s detention of Andrew Brunson, a pastor from North Carolina. This was settled after Turkey released the pastor.

    It is known that President Trump has a complicated relationship with Turkish leader Erdogan. Though the United States and Turkey are frequently at odds in a number of foreign policy areas, after Sunday’s announcement Trump repeatedly emphasized the importance of Washington and Ankara’s relationship, and it is now reported that the Turkish President will call at the White House in early November.

    Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates condemned Turkey's offensive, saying it would undermine the region's security and the battle against jihadists, and that it represents a dangerous development and a blatant and unacceptable aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state in contravention of international law.

    Shortly before the Turkish offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged Erdogan to “think carefully about the situation so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis”, the Kremlin said, following a call between the two leaders.

    Turkey has reportedly been planning military action against Kurdish forces in northern Syria for some time. Ankara distrusts Kurdish forces due to their ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and which Ankara considers a terrorist movement. Turkey also wants to use this move to resettle a large number of the Syrian refugees - nearly 3 million – settled in Turkey in recent years due to the fighting in Syria. This could lead to the change in demographic patterns in the region, where the Kurds are now in a majority.

    Policy confusion in the US led by President Trump, the Turkish interest in keeping control over the Kurds, who they largely regard as terrorist forces, and the possible release or escape of the captured IS fighters held by the Kurdish Forces, pose a major threat to peace in the Middle East.

    Trump Impeachment

    The Donald Trump impeachment move went deeper with former vice president Joe Biden, making a direct call for President Trump’s impeachment; hours after Trump said the Democratic-led inquiry should be terminated “for the good of the country,” claiming it was tainted with political bias.

    “President Trump has indicted himself by obstructing justice, refusing to comply with a congressional inquiry … he’s already convicted himself,” said Biden, who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. Trump, continued to take aim at Biden and House Democrats, indicating he would refuse to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry unless Democrats “give us our rights.”

    The developments came a day after the White House said in a scathing eight-page letter that it would not cooperate with the inquiry into the Ukraine scandal on the grounds that it lacked merit. The letter was the latest escalation in a standoff with Congress, where Democrats are vowing to hold Trump accountable for pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been suspended.

    Johnson under threat

    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is being pushed into a crisis situation on Brexit from the European Union, with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier stating that Johnson’s Brexit plans “are not really in a position” to find agreement.

    This comes ahead of the EU Summit on October 17, when it is learnt that Johnson is preparing for a historic Saturday sitting of the Commons on October19, in a last-ditch bid to avoid asking the EU for a Brexit delay. Johnson has been openly critical of such a delay. He wants the exit from the EU on October 3, with or without a deal.

    The Irish leader Leo Varadkar has said negotiating a new Brexit agreement by the crucial EU Summit will be “very difficult”. He said Ireland and the EU would not accept an agreement with UK at “any cost”. Boris Johnson also hosted European Parliament president David Sassoli in Downing Street this week, but the MEP left saying “no progress” had been made.

    The European Parliament's Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt has branded Brexiteers “the real traitors”, in a significant escalation of rhetoric from Brussels. He accused Boris Johnson of blaming everyone but himself for the situation the UK found itself in. “The real reason why this is happening is very simply: it's a blame game against everybody. A blame game against the European Union, against Ireland, against Mrs. Merkel, against the British judicial system, against Labour, against the Lib Dems, even against Mrs. May,” he said.

    Further, Downing Street’s threat to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31 is mere “bravado” and Boris Johnson will be blocked by the courts if he tries to do it, former chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

    The is “no way round” the legal requirement under the so-called Benn Act for the prime minister to seek an extension to Brexit negotiations if he fails to secure a deal by the end of next week, Mr. Hammond insisted. He was speaking as he set out proposals for a new “super-soft Brexit” customs arrangement with Europe, which he believes could be agreed with Brussels and MPs in place of Johnson’s plan, which he said “will not fly”.

    Hong Kong masks

    Hong Kong shopping malls started closing early mid-week to avoid becoming targets of planned protests and the city's metro, which has centre of violent unrest in recent weeks. Hong Kong is one of the world's top shopping cities, but four months of often violent protests have severely dented that reputation, with more than 100 shops closed, scores vandalized and malls now becoming sites for sit-ins by protesters.

    The protests are now mainly against the move by the authorities to ban the face mask in protests. The protesters clash with the police and many have been arrested during “masked” protests.

    In a significant move, Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam has said she would not rule out asking for Chinese government help in putting down the long-running protests “if the situation becomes so bad”, but at present she thought city authorities could handle the situation.

    She warned that the city’s economy was entering a “bitter winter”, with the protests badly affecting tourism in particular with visitors in the first week of October – a national holiday in mainland China – down by half. Visitor numbers in July were down 4.8% year on year but in August and September, down by 30% to 40%.

    Iraq protests

    With more than 100 civilians killed in the recent Iraqi protests in many parts of the country, there was a reduction in the violence with the government’s move to meet the demands of the protesters.

    Analysts saw number of dead and injured continue to climb in the protests mainly because of a lack of training of Iraqi security forces in handling such events. Iraq's security forces were not trained to deal with mass protests, but with well-armed rebels, they observed. The protests grew due to the hardships faced by the people, especially the youth, with huge unemployment in an oil producing country. Corruption in the state was an issue of the protesters.

    Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most important Shia leader, has called on politicians to enact “serious reforms” before it is too late, while also admonishing all violence — that perpetrated by security forces as well as by protesters. The reaction from the influential Shia cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr was harsher in tone. He called for representatives to boycott parliament until the government presented reforms that could be accepted by the people.

     

     

     

     

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    Mid-East security threat as Turkey attacks Kurds

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