The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby American Dream » Thu Oct 17, 2019 8:31 am

Turkey’s War in Syria Is a War for Fascism

BY MAX ZIRNGAST ALP KAYSERILIOĞLU GÜNEY IŞIKARA

Turkey’s military invasion isn’t just about wiping out the Kurds in Syria — it’s a bid to bolster the far right in Turkey. We must oppose this unconscionable act.

Image
People hold a Turkish flag as they give their support to the Turkish military during the deployment of tanks to Syria on October 12, 2019 in Akcakale, Turkey.


World Hegemony No More?

What about the United States?

It is clear that Trump’s decision to give Turkey the go-ahead, however ambiguous it might be, is not just attributable to the American president’s capriciousness. US imperialism itself is torn between competing impulses: one part of the ruling bloc aims to perpetuate an international arrangement where the United States leads the states and institutions of the western capitalist hemisphere; another bloc desires unilateralism and self-sufficiency from the United States as a more effective way to maintain power and profits.

While the first tendency wants the United States to work with other nations and co-opt as many actors as possible on an international scale (including the Kurds in Syria, as a supposed card to play against Assad and Iran, and maybe even Turkey), the other tendency wants to reduce the United States’ international engagement as much as possible and devolve responsibility and security tasks to other states — in this case, its NATO partner Turkey.

No matter what these contradictions mean for US imperialism, as of today, Russia seems to be the primary winner of the imperialist proxy war in Syria. On Sunday, Kurdish forces and their allies announced that they had agreed to cooperate with Assad (and Russia) to avoid the genocidal progress of Turkey and its jihadist allies. The Syrian Arab Army quickly entered many cities and crucial areas in Rojava (though it remains to be seen whether Assad and the Kurdish-led administration can agree on political matters like a process of working toward a new constitution).

From Russia’s point of view, the United States has shot itself in the foot. Kurdish forces on the ground are totally cut off from the United States and are bitterly accusing the US of betrayal. The United States’ relationship with Turkey has also taken a hit, with mounting political reaction in the “internationalist-interventionist” faction against the invasion and political and economic sanctions on the way. Russia, at least for now, seems to be the imperialist game-maker in the region.


https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/10/turk ... isis-kurds
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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Thu Oct 17, 2019 2:03 pm

Pence Says U.S. and Turkey Have Agreed to a 5-Day Ceasefire in Syria


trump creates a crisis then pretends to fix the crises he just created

Erdogan wins Kurds lose


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Cavusoglu Press Conference:

We got what we wanted.

There was an agreement that the Turkish Armed Forces will control this area.

The YPG's heavy weapons will be collected.

We will put Operation Peace Spring on hold for 120hrs so the YPG can vacate.

This is not a ceasefire
https://twitter.com/YusufErim79/status/ ... 6908801024



Susan Simpson

There it is, in black and white. The only "concession" is that, in exchange for the U.S. meeting all of its demands, the Turkey will pause its military efforts to clear out the Syrian territory for five days, while the U.S. tries to achieve that goal on Turkey's behalf.
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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Fri Oct 18, 2019 7:12 am

Aaron Rupar

Referring to Kurds living along Turkish border in Syria, Trump says of Turkey, "they had to have it cleaned out."
Trump slathers praise on Erdogan: "I just want to thank and congratulate President Erdogan. He's a friend of mine and I'm glad we didn't have a problem because frankly he is a hell of a leader and a tough man, a strong man."
TRUMP: "What Turkey is getting now is they are not going to have to kill millions of people

https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1184897777941307392


"they had to have it cleaned out." = ETHNIC CLEANSING

ALJAZEERA
Turkey's military operation in Syria: All the latest updates
Ankara agreed to suspend its offensive for five days to allow Kurds to withdraw from the Turkey-Syria border.
26 minutes ago

Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States, said Washington and Ankara have agreed to a ceasefire in northeast Syria.

Thursday's announcement came after talks between Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

The ceasefire grants the Kurdish-led forces, that were Washington's main Syrian ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS), five days to withdraw from the so-called "safe zone" Turkey wants to establish inside Syria.

Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on October 9, aiming to clear the region of Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers "terrorists" linked to Kurdish separatists on its soil. The campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, would also allow the repatriation of Syrian refugees, according to Turkish officials.

However, there are fears the offensive may result in mass displacement of people and the revival of ISIL.

Here are the latest updates:

Friday, October 18
SDF spokesman: Turkish bombardment violating truce
Turkey is violating an hours-old ceasefire in northeastern Syria and still targeting civilians with air strikes and artillery fire, a Kurdish military spokesperson said.

"Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital" in the battleground border town of Ras al-Ain, spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Mustafa Bali, said.

Pompeo seeks to assure Israel after US pullout from Syria
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has underscored US-Israeli efforts to counter Iran in talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an apparent attempt to ease concerns in Israel that Tehran could exploit a US military pullback in Syria.

Pompeo and Netanyahu met in Jerusalem hours after Turkey agreed with the United States to pause its offensive on Kurdish forces in Syria.

Israel sees Syria's Kurds, once US allies, as a counterweight to militants in northern Syria. It also worries that its arch-foe Iran or local allies could fill the vacuum left by a disengaged United States.

Pompeo said he and Netanyahu discussed "all the efforts we've made to push back against the threat not only to Israel but to the region and the world from the Islamic Republic of Iran."

"We shared our ideas about how we can ensure Middle East stability together, and how we would further our efforts to jointly combat all the challenges that the world confronts here in the Middle East," Pompeo told reporters with Netanyahu by his side.

Turkey's opposition party hails Turkey-US deal on Syria
The leader of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has welcomed the deal between the US and Turkey on Turkey's anti-terror operation in northern Syria, calling the move "valuable."

In a statement, Devlet Bahceli said: "The Nationalist Movement Party finds the deal made between Turkey and the US delegation valuable."

Bahceli praised President Erdogan for "reiterating Turkey's legitimate position to the world and for not making concessions on his dedication" on Turkey's counterterror operation in northern Syria.

He lauded Turkish soldiers as "heroes" voicing his belief that they will remain "vigilant" and "prepared", come what may.

Pompeo discusses Trump's Syria policy with Netanyahu
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as President Donald Trump's policy changes on Syria sparked concern among Israelis.

Washington's top diplomat and the veteran prime minister began the meeting on Friday morning at Netanyahu's official residence in Jerusalem.

Israelis have been watching Trump's decisions on Syria closely, concerned that their country too could be abandoned by its most important ally.

Beyond that, Israel has long-standing concerns over whether arch-enemy Iran will move to fill any vacuum in neighbouring Syria, where Tehran has been supporting President Bashar al-Assad in an eight-year-old civil war.

Kremlin wants information from Turkey about Syria deal with US
The Kremlin has said it expected to receive information from Turkey after it agreed to a deal with the US to halt its offensive in Syria for five days, the RIA news agency reported.

Turkish President Erdogan is due to hold talks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin about Syria on Tuesday next week in southern Russia.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visits Turkey
US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at news conference in Ankara [Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters]
Shelling heard around Syrian border town after ceasefire deal
Shelling and gunfire have resounded around the northeast Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, a day after Turkey agreed to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw.

Machine-gun fire and shelling could be heard from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar across the border from Ras al-Ain, and smoke rose from one part of the Syrian town.

It was unclear whether there was any damage from the shelling heard on Friday.

Amnesty accuses Turkey of 'war crimes' in Syria
Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies have committed "war crimes", including summary executions, during their operation in northeast Syria, Amnesty International said.

Amnesty accused Ankara's forces of "serious violations and war crimes, summary killings and unlawful attacks" in the operation launched on October 9.

"Turkish military forces and a coalition of Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian life," Amnesty said.

There was no immediate response from Ankara, which announced a suspension of the attacks late on Thursday, but it says all possible measures have been taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Australia: Too dangerous to repatriate ISIL captives
Australia has ruled out retrieving dozens of Australian women and children from refugee camps during the ceasefire in Syria.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday the situation remained too dangerous to send troops or officials into the war-torn nation.

About 46 Australian women and children, who fled the territory held by ISIL, are being held at the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria near the area of the Turkish operation.

Eight Australian offspring of two slain ISIL fighters were removed from Syria in June, Australia's only organised repatriation from the conflict zone.
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ ... 56826.html






I really hope that somebody realizes soon that Turkey holds much of the same kompromat over the US government that Russia does - and that same info can explain away EVERYTHING in Trump's letter to Erdogan plus today's acquiescence and obeisance.
https://twitter.com/soychicka


Halkbank penalty could be very severe – Courthouse News reporter Adam Klasfeld




Will the Kurdish territory make up for it?
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby Grizzly » Fri Oct 18, 2019 6:45 pm

“Peace Expert George W Bush Says ‘Isolationism’ Is Dangerous To Peace…”


Tulsi must have hit a nerve..

https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2019/10/18/peace-expert-george-w-bush-says-isolationism-is-dangerous-to-peace/


Also, tangentially related:
Sibel Edmonds, Obama era whistleblower warns of major incoming "isis false flag" attacks---!!!!!
https://www.reddit.com/r/conspiracy/comments/djqoh6/sibel_edmonds_obama_era_whistleblower_warns_of/
If Barthes can forgive me, “What the public wants is the image of passion Justice, not passion Justice itself.”
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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Oct 19, 2019 6:59 am

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in response to Trump's comments: "The president of the United States is using the language of ethnic cleansing. If we allow him to continue, who would he use it on next?"


NEWS/SYRIA'S WAR

Turkey's military operation in Syria: All the latest updates

Five-day truce in northeast Syria largely holding despite accusations of violations from Kurdish forces and Turkey.
10 minutes ago

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the offensive in northeast Syria will resume against Kurdish forces if they do not abide by the terms of a five-day ceasefire.

Scattered fighting flared in northern Syria on Friday despite the United States-brokered deal with Ankara, which requires Kurdish fighters to vacate a swathe of territory in Syria along the Turkish border.

The ceasefire agreement was reached in negotiations between Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.

More:

Erdogan warns Kurds as Syria ceasefire gets off to rocky start

Full text of Turkey, US statement on northeast Syria

Turkey's operation in Syria exposed Europe's double standards

Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on October 9, aiming to clear the region of Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers "terrorists" linked to Kurdish separatists on its soil.

The campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, would also allow the repatriation of Syrian refugees, according to Turkish officials.

Here are the latest updates:

Saturday, October 19
Kurdish forces say Turkey violating Syria truce
Syrian Kurdish forces said Turkey is failing to abide by the terms of a US-brokered ceasefire, refusing to lift a siege it imposed on a key border town in northeastern Syria 30 hours after the truce went into effect.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said in a statement that the Turkish side had not allowed the agreed opening of a safe corridor to evacuate civilians and wounded who are besieged in the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain.

They called on Pence, who negotiated the deal with Erdogan, to take responsibility for enforcing the five-day ceasefire.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Turkey-backed Syrian fighters have prevented a medical convoy from reaching Ras al-Ain since Friday.

Turkey accuses Kurdish forces of violating ceasefire
Turkey accused Kurdish forces of violating an agreement to suspend its Syria offensive if they withdraw from a so-called "safe zone" along the border.

"The Turkish armed forces fully abides by the agreement" reached on Thursday with the United States, the defence ministry said in a statement. "Despite this, terrorists ... carried out a total of 14 attacks in the last 36 hours."
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ ... 27691.html


'Absolutely No Respect for Human Life': Trump Compares Turkish Assault on Kurds to Two Kids Fighting in a Parking Lot

"The president is talking about genocidal slaughter and hundreds of thousands of war victims like it's a playground squabble."

Jake Johnson, staff writer
During a campaign rally in Dallas, Texas Thursday night, President Donald Trump compared the Turkish assault on Kurds in Syria that he enabled—which has killed dozens and displaced an estimated 160,000 civilians—to two kids fighting in a parking lot.

"Sometimes you have to let 'em fight," Trump said to cheers from his supporters. "Like two kids in a lot, you gotta let 'em fight, then you pull 'em apart."

Trump's callous and mocking remarks about an attack in which people were maimed, tortured, and executed left observers appalled.

"This little quip speaks volumes," tweeted S.V. Dáte, White House correspondent for HuffPost. "The president is talking about genocidal slaughter and hundreds of thousands of war victims like it's a playground squabble."

The comments, wrote another critic, show the president "has absolutely no respect for human life."

Watch:


MSNBC

@MSNBC
WATCH: President Trump on Turkey attacking the Kurds: "Sometimes you have to let them fight, like two kids in a lot. You have to let them fight, and then you pull them apart!"
Embedded video

2,183
9:17 PM - Oct 17, 2019
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"This is outright horrifying," tweeted Daniel Nichanian, fellow at the Justice Collaborative. "The Kurds have suffered decades of systematic state-sponsored violence and repression (physical, cultural, political)."

The president's comments came just hours after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced what they called a "ceasefire" agreement with Turkey that would require Kurds with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to leave a 20-mile area near the border of Turkey.

The deal, which critics condemned as "ethnic cleansing," was celebrated by Turkey as a near-total victory.

"Turkey isn't even calling it a ceasefire—it's calling it a win," noted Vox's Jen Kirby. "It is not clear the Syrian Kurds were consulted at all about this arrangement, and the extent to which they'll comply remains unclear."

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump openly used the language of ethnic cleansing to describe the U.S. agreement with Turkey:


Aaron Rupar

@atrupar
Referring to Kurds living along Turkish border in Syria, Trump says of Turkey, "they had to have it cleaned out."
Embedded video

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1:23 PM - Oct 17, 2019
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"Donald Trump is defending the notion that a historically oppressed ethnic minority had to be 'cleaned out,'" tweeted The Nation's John Nichols. "Anyone who defends this language is either wholly ignorant of the past or wholly evil."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in response to Trump's comments: "The president of the United States is using the language of ethnic cleansing. If we allow him to continue, who would he use it on next?"
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/ ... s-two-kids


Published on
Friday, October 18, 2019
by Common Dreams
Trump’s Fake Withdrawal From Endless War
Despite his endless promises to end these wars, Trump has instead been dropping more bombs and missiles on other countries than Bush II and Obama put together—a terrifying feat.
byMedea Benjamin, Nicolas J S Davies
15 Comments
Kurdish Syrian civilians flee the town of Kobane on the Turkish border on October 16, 2019 as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. - Turkey rebuffed international pressure to curb its military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria today as US President Donald Trump dispatched his deputy Mike Pence to Ankara to demand a ceasefire. (Photo: Bakr Alkasem/AFP via Getty Images)
Kurdish Syrian civilians flee the town of Kobane on the Turkish border on October 16, 2019 as Turkey and its allies continue their assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria. - Turkey rebuffed international pressure to curb its military offensive against Kurdish militants in Syria today as US President Donald Trump dispatched his deputy Mike Pence to Ankara to demand a ceasefire. (Photo: Bakr Alkasem/AFP via Getty Images)
On Monday, October 7th, the U.S. withdrew 50 to 100 troops from positions near Syria's border with Turkey, and two days later Turkey invaded Rojava, the de facto autonomous Kurdish region of northeast Syria. Trump is now taking credit for a temporary, tenuous ceasefire. In a blizzard of tweets and statements, Donald Trump has portrayed his chaotic tactical relocation of U.S. troops in Syria as a down-payment on his endless promises to withdraw U.S. forces from endless wars in the greater Middle East.

On October 16, the U.S. Congress snatched the low-hanging political fruit of Trump’s muddled policy with a rare bipartisan vote of 354-60 to condemn the U.S. redeployment as a betrayal of the Kurds, a weakening of America’s credibility, a lifeline to ISIS, and a political gift to Russia, China and Iran.

But this is the same Congress that never mustered the integrity to debate or vote on the fateful decision to send U.S. troops into harm’s way in Syria in the first place. This vote still fails to fulfill Congress’s constitutional duty to decide whether U.S. troops should be risking their lives in illegal military operations in Syria, what they are supposed to be doing there or for how long. Members of Congress from both parties remain united in their shameful abdication of their constitutional authority over America’s illegal wars.

"Members of Congress from both parties remain united in their shameful abdication of their constitutional authority over America's illegal wars." Trump’s latest promises to “bring the troops home” were immediately exposed as empty rhetoric by a Pentagon press release on October 11, announcing that the Trump administration has actually increased its deployments of troops to the greater Middle East by 14,000 since May. There were already 60,000 troops stationed or deployed in the region, which the Congressional Research Service described in September as a long-term “baseline,” so the new deployments appear to have raised the total number of U.S. troops in the region to about 74,000.

Precise numbers of U.S. troops in each country are hard to pin down, especially since the Pentagon stopped publishing its troop strength in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in 2017. Based mainly on reports by the Congressional Research Service, these are the most accurate and up-to-date numbers we have found:

14,000-15,000 (plus 8,000 from other NATO countries) in Afghanistan; about 7,000, mostly U.S. Navy, in Bahrain; 280 in Egypt; 5,000-10,000 in Iraq, mostly at Al-Asad air base in Anbar province; 2,800 in Jordan (some may now have been relocated to Iraq); 13,000 in Kuwait, the fourth largest permanent U.S. base nation after Germany, Japan and South Korea; a “few hundred” in Oman; at least 13,000 in Qatar, where the Pentagon just approved a $1.8 billion expansion of Al Udeid Air Base, U.S. Central Command’s regional occupation headquarters; about 3,500 in Saudi Arabia, including 500 sent in July and 2,500 more since September; 1,000-2,000 in Syria, who may or may not really be leaving; 1,750 at Incirlik and Izmir Air Bases in Turkey; and more than 5,000 in the UAE, mostly at Al Dhafra Air Base.

As for actually ending the wars that all these forces are waging or supporting, Trump escalated the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria in 2017, and these bombing campaigns rumble on regardless of peace talks with the Taliban and declarations of victory over the Islamic State. U.S. air wars are often more devastating than ground warfare, especially to civilians.

Between 2001 and October 2018, the U.S. and its allies dropped more than 290,000 bombs and missiles on other countries. This reign—or rain—of terror from above has not stopped. According to U.S. airpower statistics, from November 2018 to September 2019 the U.S. has now dropped another 6,811 bombs on Afghanistan and 7,889 on Iraq and Syria.

"It is up to the rest of us to grasp the horror, futility and criminality of the wars that three successive U.S. administrations have inflicted on the world and to organize effective political action to end them and prevent new ones."In Donald Trump’s first 32 months in office, he is responsible for dropping 17,100 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan and 48,941 on Iraq and Syria, an average of a bomb or missile every 20 minutes. Despite his endless promises to end these wars, Trump has instead been dropping more bombs and missiles on other countries than Bush II and Obama put together.

When Congress finally invoked the War Powers Act to extricate U.S. forces from the Saudi-led war on Yemen, Trump vetoed the bill. The House has now attached that provision to the FY2020 NDAA military spending bill, but the Senate has not yet agreed to it and Trump may find another way to exclude it.

Even as Donald Trump rails against the military-industrial complex that “likes war” and sometimes sounds sincere in his desire to end these wars, he keeps hiring arms industry executives to run his foreign and military policy. His first defense secretary was General Dynamics board member and retired General James Mattis. Then he brought in Boeing’s Senior Vice President Patrick Shanahan as acting secretary of defense, and now Raytheon lobbyist Mike Esper as Secretary of Defense. Secretary of State Pompeo made his fortune as the co-founder of Thayer Aerospace. Trump boasts about being the best weapons salesman of all, touting his multi-billion dollar deals to provide the repressive Saudi regime with the weapons to commit crimes against humanity in Yemen.

And yet withdrawal from endless wars is one Trump campaign promise that Americans across the political spectrum hoped he would really fulfill. Tragically, like “drain the swamp” and other applause lines, Trump’s promises to end the “crazy, endless wars” have proven to be just another cynical ploy by this supremely cynical politician and con man.

The banal truism that ultimately defines Trump’s foreign policy is that actions speak louder than words. Behind the smokescreen of Trump’s alternating professions of faith to both sides on every issue, he always ends up rewarding the wealthy and powerful. His cronies in the arms industry are no exception.

"Trump's promises to end the 'crazy, endless wars' have proven to be just another cynical ploy by this supremely cynical politician and con man."
Sober reflection leads us to conclude that Trump’s endless promises will not end the endless wars he has been waging and escalating, nor prevent the new ones he has threatened against North Korea, Venezuela and Iran. So it is up to the rest of us to grasp the horror, futility and criminality of the wars that three successive U.S. administrations have inflicted on the world and to organize effective political action to end them and prevent new ones.

We also need help from legitimate mediators from the UN and mutually trusted third parties to negotiate political and diplomatic solutions that U.S. leaders who are blinded by deeply ingrained militarism and persistent illusions of global military dominance cannot achieve by themselves.

In the real world, which does still exist beyond the fantasy world of Trump’s contradictory promises, that is how we will bring the troops home.
https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019 ... ndless-war
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:21 pm

WORLD
The Inside Story Of One Website's Defense Of Assad
A small Minnesota news outlet caused a storm when it ran a story claiming Syria's rebels carried out a chemical attack near Damascus in August. A look inside the murky world of Mint Press News.

Posted on October 1, 2013, at 10:40 p.m. ET

As Mnar Muhawesh prepared to publish a scoop from longtime Associated Press stringer Dale Gavlak, she dashed off an email to her staff with the typical glee of an editor with a huge story.

"MintPress News, Associated Press and NPR correspondent Dale Gavlak, based in Amman, Jordan, who has been the Associated Press correspondent based in that region for over 25 years and still going, has broken a very important story in regards to the Syrian chemical weapons attack that occurred last week, and I wanted to give you the opportunity to be the first to hear," Muhawesh, the 26-year-old editor of Mint Press News, wrote on Aug. 29 in an internal email obtained by BuzzFeed. "Witnesses on the ground in Goutha, Syria (location of recent chemical attack), including family members of rebels and even Jordanian officials have told Dale and her colleague Yahya Abaneh that the chemical weapons were provided to the rebels by Saudi Arabia, specifically through Prince Bandar Bin Sultan."

The story was the biggest scoop Mint Press had landed in its short existence, gaining international attention and a public citation by Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov. Syrian and Iranian state media cited it. It landed at the height of international outrage over an Aug. 21 chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb and of efforts by the Obama administration to win support for a punishing strike.

The problem: Its explosive allegations — that the rebels, and not the regime of Bashar al-Assad, had used chemical weapons — were unverified, and its authorship was unclear. As the story went viral, the journalist whom Muhawesh presented in her email as the story's author demanded that her byline be pulled — first privately, and then publicly, taking her complaint to the well-regarded Brown Moses blog of Syria researcher Eliot Higgins. Muhawesh refused.

The incident obsessed Syria watchers as it unfolded on Twitter last month. Today, the story, "Syrians In Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack," is still up on Mint Press, but several key questions remain. How did the story come about and who really wrote it? Who stands behind Mint Press, a small Minneapolis-based site with a progressive bent that hides its funding even from employees and has mysterious connections to the Middle East? And, more broadly, how does one separate truth from propaganda in a conflict marked by deep divisions — ethnic, religious, and ideological?

Interviews with former employees and people familiar with the inner workings of Mint Press, and an examination of public records, paint a portrait of a dysfunctional outlet where employees are left in the dark about the site's sources of funding and are alienated from the Muhawesh family that runs it: Mnar, the editor-in-chief, her brother-in-law and managing editor Muhammad Muhawesh, and her father-in-law Odeh Muhawesh, 54, a Minneapolis businessman born in Jordan. They also reveal an agenda that lines up, from its sympathy with the Syrian regime to its hostility to Sunni Saudi Arabia, with that of the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Odeh Muhawesh studied under an ayatollah for five years after the Islamic Revolution, and where he visited as recently as this summer.

Several bodies are buried in a suburb of Damascus, Syria, during a funeral on Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013.
In September 2011, Mnar Muhawesh posted her first call for reporters on journalismjobs.com. She had registered Mint Press News as a limited liability company three months earlier, filing with the state of Minnesota under her name. The email address and phone number on the filing form, however, were those of her father-in-law, Odeh Muhawesh — the first inkling that the man whose name appears nowhere on Mint Press' masthead may play a greater role than he claims. (Odeh Muhawesh declined to comment on why his email was used.)

"Be a part of something groundbreaking and meaningful," one job ad read. "[Join] Mint Press in our journey to bring back the true meaning of news as we break political stories and ask the real tough questions which are often overlooked."

Joey LeMay, a copy editor at a Gannett-owned paper at the time, said he eagerly replied and, aged 25 at the time, was hired to cover national politics, education, and social justice for the website. "It was almost a too-good-to-be-true venture," he said, calling Mint Press a "dream job."

LeMay's new boss was his former classmate at St. Cloud State, a Minnesota university. He didn't know Muhawesh well at the time, but he knew that she was a big scholarship winner. Muhawesh had also gained some recognition around campus for becoming the first reporter to wear a hijab on the school's TV news program.

"My first impression was that she's a go-getter, determined, and incredibly knowledgeable," LeMay said. "She prided herself on being calm, cool, and collected."

LeMay was excited to work with like-minded people in a startup environment — it helped that his annual salary at Mint Press was $14,000 higher than it was at Gannett. His new newsroom routine was fairly standard: Every morning, the staff would pitch three to four items, usually based on stories that were already reported by major outlets, but with a "Mint Press spin," LeMay said.

"We weren't out gathering the stories. There was very little backpack journalism involved in this," he said. "We were at a desk. If we did a story about private prisons, we would call the ACLU for comment. This was not objective, straight, traditional journalism. They were passion topics."

Flooding journalismjobs.com with listings didn't just catch the attention of young, progressive-leaning journalists like LeMay. David Brauer, a media reporter with MinnPost, profiled Muhawesh in January 2012, after seeing Mint Press News pop up repeatedly on local job boards.


"I had never heard of them, and no one I knew had ever heard of them," Brauer told BuzzFeed. (Even after the Gavlak scandal, Mint Press has failed to make waves in the local media, perhaps because the outlet has little interest in local reporting; "People in my circle, the chattering-class media circle, are absolutely not aware of them," Brauer said.)

When he met Muhawesh, Brauer found her to be a "very, very serious young journalist, perhaps overly serious. I don't know if I saw any flashes of a sense of humor, but I saw someone who was determined and motivated."

Muhawesh firmly emphasized to Brauer that even though she was a devout Muslim, Mint Press would not have a religious slant.

"It was clear to me she was about much more than any sort of Muslim identity," said Brauer, who had visited the Mint Press offices in Plymouth, an upscale Twin Cities suburb. "I did get the sense of her being more of a lefty Occupy Wall Street activist then someone with a 'giant Muslim agenda.'"

When Brauer asked Muhawesh where the money for the venture was coming from, she would only identify her investors as "retired businesspeople." Brauer was curious, though not necessarily suspicious.

"She wasn't the first journalism entrepreneur to not say where her money was coming from," Brauer said. "I don't have any evidence to say that there's anything wrong there, but I think there are some natural questions about how she's able to finance it at her age."

Muhawesh wasn't just ambiguous about her funding with Brauer. She wouldn't disclose any details to her first hire, LeMay, who said he started "second-guessing things" a few months into the job.

"It was incredibly secretive," LeMay said. There were barely any ads on the website, and whenever LeMay asked about where they got their money, "it was brushed off as a nonissue."

"I would go home feeling not squeaky clean," he said.


A source familiar with the workings of Mint Press told BuzzFeed that employees were given the "retired businessmen" line at the beginning, but are now told the company is being financed through private loans, though Muhawesh won't specify who the creditors are.

In an email to BuzzFeed, Muhawesh claimed that she is financing Mint Press alone.

"MintPress was originally funded by angel investors when I was first putting the company together over a year ago, but that route fell through last year as I restructured the business plan," Muhawesh said. "I am the sole investor of MintPress."

One former employee who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of legal repercussions was skeptical, saying that employees often speculated that funding came from "retired businesspeople" with political agendas in the Middle East.

"I don't think there are a lot of people in Minneapolis who look at that website and think, 'Oh that seems like a sound local investment,'" the former employee said.


Muhawesh's editorial direction didn't do much to ease staff suspicions. She was progressive, but shied away from some important stories, including LGBT issues.

"For the longest time we really didn't write about same-sex marriage legalization," the former employee said. "There might have been an AP story published, but we were discouraged from pitching these stories for a while."

According to the source familiar with Mint Press' operations, stories about Saudi Arabia and Israel would in particular be edited a certain way. Saudi Arabia-related stories would almost always be edited to include a line about Saudi financing of terrorist groups, the source said. One writer was forced by Muhawesh to refer to the Palestinian territories as an "open-air prison" in a news piece.

"They're super anti-Israel," the source said. The company had one Jewish employee, Martin Michaels, until the week before last when Michaels was fired with no explanation. Michaels did not return requests for comment.

It was more than murky funding sources that raised concern among staff. LeMay also thought it strange that Muhawesh would only meet with reporters one-on-one, and rarely as a whole staff. He recalled just one rare all-hands meeting, led by Odeh Muhawesh this spring and devoted to events in Syria.

"It was an hour of him just filling us in on his predictions for what was gonna happen overseas in Syria — all this convoluted political strategy," LeMay said. "I don't know if it was right or wrong, but looking back at it, it seems awfully manipulative the way he did it. I felt like it was kind of a mind-mold: 'Please think this way, let's try to report this way, and what will be will be.'"

The staff questioned who was really in charge, LeMay said. Muhawesh was the executive director and read every story before it was published on the website, but "didn't have a whole lot to say about the daily operations," he said. She was, instead, "a workplace bully who likes to throw her weight around," he said. Employees wondered if there wasn't someone else running the show.

As with its funding, questions about how Mint Press operates always seem to circle back to one person: Odeh Muhawesh, Mnar Muhawesh's father-in-law, who visited the office once a week, according to LeMay, despite having no official title beyond adviser.

Odeh Muhawesh is originally from Jordan, born in Amman in 1959, according to his personal website, where he describes himself as a "well-known theologian and successful business leader." He moved to the United States after finishing high school and appears to have devoted himself largely to business. Several companies, mainly in software development, are registered to his name in Minneapolis. In 2003, the Minneapolis Middle East Trading Company, of which he was president, opened an office in Amman, Jordan, as "Minnesota's Gateway to Iraq," according to a press release from June of that year.

"Our contribution," Muhawesh says in the release, "is that we know the right people and we know how to get business done in this part of the world."

One of his companies, an app development firm called Stratika, had former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on its board when he was still in the statehouse in the early 2000s. In 2001, Pawlenty introduced a bill that prohibited foods that weren't halal from being falsely packaged as such. A press release by the Council on American-Islamic Relations notes that the bill "was introduced by Representative Tim Pawlenty at the suggestion of Odeh Muhawesh, a Muslim businessman who resides in Plymouth, Minnesota." The bill passed.

In addition to his business interests, Muhawesh is also an adjunct professor in the theology department at St. Thomas University in Minnesota.

Muhawesh got much of his training in Iran, which has a deep stake in supporting the regime of Assad. In 1982, three years after the country's Islamic Revolution, Muhawesh traveled to Qom, Iran's religious center, to study for five years under the prominent Iranian cleric Jafar Sobhani, a grand ayatollah, according to Muhawesh's personal site.


Sobhani spoke out on Syria in August, when he was quoted as criticizing Sunni clerics for issuing a fatwa that called on Muslims to fight the Syrian regime when "these scholars have never announced a public mobilization against the Zionist regime who is a more apparent enemy of Muslims."

"Although there are many wise and intellectual figures among Sunni community, some Sunni scholars summon the people to fight against Syrian troops and this is a war of Muslims against Muslims," Sobhani was quoted as saying by Ahlul Bayt, a news agency focused on Shiite news.

The elder Muhawesh, too, was publicly against intervention in Syria. A since-deleted Facebook post written before the controversial Mint Press story was published describes his stance in detail, including his opinion that the Assad regime did not use chemical weapons: "Yet another war is upon us. A war based on yet another lie." He followed up by including a series of "facts on Syria."

"There is absolutely no evidence or confirmation that the Assad government carried out the alleged chemical attack," Muhawesh wrote. "Videos of the alleged attack were posted on the internet by allies of the Syrian rebels, BEFORE the attack took place." He added that, in the videos, "the victims are not displaying the proper symptoms of having been struck by a Sarin nerve gas."

In 1994, an Odeh Muhawesh from Jordan sent an email to an online Listserv espousing even more extreme views, responding to a dispute that had taken place on the list.

"Arab, Iranian, or whatsoever makes absolutely no difference," Muhawesh wrote in idiosyncratic English. "You
munafiq and Saddam, who is an Arab are both in Hell. And my
HezboLLah brothers in Lebanon(who are Arabs) together with my
Baseeje and Basdar brothers who die fighting the likes of you are in
Paradise. See it makes no difference what your nationality is."

"You simply are too stupid to realize the difference between Islam and
Arabs. What the great leaders of the IRI [Islamic Republic of Iran] and the Islamic world are trying
to do is make every aspect of Iran, and hopefully the world, Islamic not
Arab mr. munafiq," he continued. "You munafiq referred to Ayatollah Aluzma Khamanie as hujjat AlIslam,
as if you were trying to discredit his position in the Hawzeh. hear me
well
munafiq. As you raved about you worldly degrees, be aware that you
are in no position to judge people in Hawzeh. I spent five years in
Hawzeh, and I personally knew students of The great Ayatollah
Khamanie who themselves are mujtahids."

Muhawesh would not comment on whether he was the Odeh Muhawesh who wrote that email.

Muhawesh traveled to Iran as recently as this summer for a Muslim-Christian Dialogue with three other theology professors from St. Thomas. They met with clerics from Al-Mustafa University in Qom. A university press release notes that the group "visited sacred sites in Iran; had official meetings with a number of religious, governmental, and educational leaders; and had several chance meetings with people on the street." Jim Winterer, a spokesperson for St. Thomas University, said that the university paid for Muhawesh's three colleagues to fly to Iran. "Odeh Muhawesh, an adjunct faculty member, covered the majority of his airfare through a contribution to the Muslim Christian Dialogue Center," Winterer said.

Muhawesh declined to speak to BuzzFeed for this story or to answer any questions about Mint Press' funding, his time in Iran, his connections in Iran and elsewhere in the Middle East, his businesses in Minnesota, or his role in the operations of Mint Press.


"I have no ownership interest nor any editorial or journalistic involvement in Mint Press so I imagine BuzzFeed readers would agree that all other questions are irrelevant," Muhawesh said.

But Muhawesh has taken an active role in formulating Mint Press' response to the Gavlak controversy.

On Sept. 21, a Mint Press employee named Patrick Strickland emailed Mnar and Muhammad:

I hate to bother the two of you, as I know you're both busy. I just would like an update on the accusations made against MPN by Dale Gavlak and others. Are they true?

It puts me in a rough place and I'm getting flack from people who are already constantly scrutinizing journalists in Palestine/Israel. I'd like to know how to respond in such cases, considering it is a very serious accusations and it could damage everyone's credibility. I was waiting for an official comment on it, but I decided to go ahead and ask.

Please let me know ASAP.
Mnar replied to Strickland and copied the rest of the staff:

I'm so sorry you and a lot of our writers are getting caught up in this accusation by a blogger that Dale did not write the Ghouta article.
We will be releasing an official statement on Monday to the public, and possibly the email exchanges that we had with Dale where she tells us she confirmed the information with colleagues and Jordanian government officials and the fact that she she co-authored it, as Yahya does not write not speak English fluently.
We have received even more support from readers who forwarded us email exchanges between them and Dale discussing the article the day after it was published where she stated she wrote the article to get the story out and she even goes on to explain that she pitched the story to Mint Press because we are advocacy journalism.
So, there is no doubt that Dale was a co-author and we have been very clear about that aspect from the very beginning, we also made it very clear from the very beginning that Yahya was the reporter on the ground in Syria. She did ask us to make that clarification and we did the day after the article ess[sic] originally published.
The day after the article was published, Dale notified us that she was under tremendous amounts of pressure and even threatened by third parties over writing the article.
This is however not about Dale, the article has been attacked because as you know it could have detailed a US strike on Syria.
Dale is under tremendous amounts of pressure over it by third parties, which she has told us, so its clear she might be trying to distance herself from it IF she indeed did provide that blogger with that statement, which we find it strange considering it had been three weeks since the article has been published, and why would she contact a blogger and not make any official statements? Those statements to the blogger have not even been confirmed.
Lawyers are now involved in this matter, so please only respond saying that the editors at Mint Press will be responding on Monday.
Don't worry about anything, we will handle the rest.
This is a storm that will pass, and the truth will shine.
Strickland replied: "Thanks for the prompt and detailed response, Mnar. I highly suggest going public with the emails, particularly since her emails with accusations against MPN are already public."

Odeh Muhawesh then jumped into the thread to advise the team on how to respond:

Mnar, Patrick, et al,

Remember the rule which states that no publicity is bad publicity! I don't believe it always applies but it certainly does here. In every story, each side will have advocates. In this story MPN and every one its current staff will have the world on their side, while the other side will look like the bullies they are.

At this point, if the lawyers agree, I concur with Patrick that MPN needs to go on the offensive.


The final mystery comes with Yahya Ababneh, the Jordanian man who shares a byline for the Ghouta story. Ababneh told BuzzFeed he reported the piece himself and merely asked Gavlak, a longtime and well-respected Middle East correspondent whom he has known for three years after meeting through a friend at a party, to help him translate and pitch the story. It was she who chose Mint Press, he said.

"I just needed her to correct my English," Ababneh said. "Nobody wants to buy it in Arabic."

Gavlak has denied having any part in reporting the story, though she told Brown Moses that she had helped Ababneh "write up" the piece. Gavlak did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Ababneh is a mysterious figure who also uses the name "Yan Barakat" and who claims on his now-deleted LinkedIn to have done assignments "in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Libya for clients such as Al-Jazeera, Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Amman Net, and other publications."

He uses the name to maintain a presence on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte. "I don't publish my true name all times," Ababneh said. Asked about his time in Russia, he said that he had only been there for a week to visit a friend. His VKontakte account says he is from St. Petersburg.

"He works fucking hard to be honest," said a friend of Ababneh's who wished to remain anonymous. "He's a 20-hour-a-day kind of guy."

The friend provided a copy of an essay Ababneh had written to the United States embassy in Amman urging the U.S. to curb Saudi influence in the region.


"I don't want to say my opinions," Ababneh said when asked for his stance on Syria. "I'm just a simple journalist."

In subsequent emails, Ababneh revealed that he was currently in Iran: "I am really busy with my master study because that I am in Tehran ( just Try to write my paper in master to see their media and their opinion about Arab spring), also since 3 months try to get this visa for vacation."

He refused to elaborate further on what exactly he was doing there.

"All what can I say for you : I wrote to many media organisations who they will write about me soon," Ababneh wrote. "I did not writ [sic] my name before because I had a good connect between the regimes and rebels in libya and syria. Now after my name were every where I think I must find another job."

As for Gavlak, her status at AP is up in the air. An AP spokesperson declined to comment on whether the agency would continue to accept Gavlak's copy, except to say: "Dale has not been an AP staffer but has contributed stories to AP from her base in Jordan. AP did not assign, edit, or distribute the website post in question that bears her co-byline."

Meanwhile, Mint Press is preparing for its next round of battle. Mnar Muhawesh refused to answer an extensive list of questions from BuzzFeed and rebuffed several interview attempts, citing "legal events."

"Mint Press continues to stand by the courageous reporting of Dale Gavlak, Yahya Ababneh, and all of our journalists and is certainly disappointed in the direction some are choosing to take this important international story," Muhawesh said. "In the meantime, I hope BuzzFeed readers will judge the integrity and credibility of Mint Press from the independent, nonpartisan journalism found on our site."


Yet many of its journalists are clearly uneasy, prompting an exodus from Mint Press, already a small publication. Steve Horn, an investigative journalist based in Wisconsin who was a regular freelancer for the site, decided to end his relationship with Mint Press after the Ghouta story. Patrick Strickland, a reporter for the site who covers Israel and the Palestinian territories, told BuzzFeed he has also decided to leave this week.

"I stopped writing for Mint Press because I felt deeply uncomfortable that its financiers are hidden from both writers and the public," Horn said. "Whether this dark money influenced the mess that happened with the Syria chemical weapons piece remains to be seen. But given the gravity of the ongoing Syrian humanitarian quagmire, the public deserves to know who's funding not only Mint Press, but everyone else who's weighed in on Syria, as well."
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/ro ... .hgZ7Ejr1N
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby JackRiddler » Sat Oct 19, 2019 5:32 pm

.

The US has backed 21 of the 28 ‘crazy’ militias leading Turkey’s brutal invasion of northern Syria

Former and current US officials have slammed the Turkish mercenary force of “Arab militias” for executing and beheading Kurds in northern Syria. New data from Turkey reveals that almost all of these militias were armed and trained in the past by the CIA and Pentagon.

By Max Blumenthal
October 16, 2019

https://thegrayzone.com/2019/10/16/us-b ... ion-syria/


Blumenthal's news story is based on a report by Ömer Özkizilcik of the Turkish think-tank SETA, on "The Components of the [Syrian] National Army" (download pdf at https://setav.org/en/assets/uploads/2019/10/A54En.pdf).

SNA is the latest iteration of the "Free Syrian Army" and provides the infantry in the attack on the territories controlled by the Kurdish-led SDF. SNA combines 28 formerly separate militias under Turkish military command. 21 of these groups have received various forms of US aid in the past, according to the table, "Factions of the National Army," on p. 11 of the report. Most of that would have flowed during the time of the official CIA intervention program known as Timber Sycamore (2013-17), under the Obama administration. All of the groups have been receiving Turkish state support for years, according to the table.

Özkizilcik's largely sympathetic report concludes with recommendations for improving SNA and achieving better control of the army under the "Syrian Interim Government" sponsored by the Turkish state. It suggests the US should open relations with SNA and "restart" material support, and calls on the EU nations to declare "verbal support."

The internal rivalries and internal clashes between the factions of the National Army are a main problem and a source of friction. Personal issues exist between certain factions and commanders, and occasionally fighting can break out.33 This was illustrated by the fighting between Ahrar al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sharqiyah in Jinderes on the night of the announcement.34 In line with the occasional infighting between different factions of the National Army, over the years of the war, the Free Syrian Army factions and the Syrian opposition in general have lost a lot of sympathy across the world.35 It will be very hard for the National Army to overcome their 'PR problem.' (p. 14)


More from the Grayzone article:

In the Washington Post, a US official condemned the militias as a “crazy and unreliable.” Another official called them “thugs and bandits and pirates that should be wiped off the face of the earth.” Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described the scene as a “sickening horror,” blaming President Donald Trump exclusively for the atrocities.

But the fighters involved in the atrocities in northern Syria were not just random tribesmen assembled into an ad hoc army. In fact, many were former members of the Free Syrian Army, the force once armed by the CIA and Pentagon and branded as “moderate rebels.” This disturbing context was conveniently omitted from the breathless denunciations of US officials and Western pundits.

According to a research paper published this October by the pro-government Turkish think tank SETA, “Out of the 28 factions [in the Turkish mercenary force], 21 were previously supported by the United States, three of them via the Pentagon’s program to combat DAESH. Eighteen of these factions were supplied by the CIA via the MOM Operations Room in Turkey, a joint intelligence operation room of the ‘Friends of Syria’ to support the armed opposition. Fourteen factions of the 28 were also recipients of the U.S.-supplied TOW anti-tank guided missiles.” (A graph by SETA naming the various militias and the type of US support they received is at the end of this article).

In other words, virtually the entire apparatus of anti-Assad insurgents armed and equipped under the Obama administration has been repurposed by the Turkish military to serve as the spearhead of its brutal invasion of northern Syria. The leader of this force is Salim Idriss, now the “Defense Minister” of Syria’s Turkish-backed “interim government.” He’s the same figure who hosted John McCain when the late senator made his infamous 2013 incursion into Syria.

The “sickening horror” this collection of extremists is carrying out against Kurds is, in fact, the same one it imposed on Syrians across the country for the past seven years. Before, when their goal was regime change in Damascus, they had the blessing and wholehearted support of official Washington. But now that they are slaughtering members of a much more loyal US proxy force, their former patrons and enablers are rushing to denounce them as “bandits and pirates.”

The FSA and White Helmets become Turkey’s mercenary army
Turkey employed anti-Assad insurgents against the Kurdish YPG for the first time in March 2018, when it invaded the northern Syrian city of Afrin during Operation Olive Branch. That onslaught saw an array of heinous atrocities, from the vandalism of the corpse of a female Kurdish fighter to the looting of Afrin. These war crimes were committed largely by fighters of the defunct Free Syrian Army – the collection of “moderate rebels” once armed by the CIA.

In a video message, one of the invading fighters promised mass ethnic cleansing if Kurds in the area refused to convert to his Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam. “By Allah,” the fighter declared, “if you repent and come back to Allah, then know that you are our brothers. But if you refuse, then we see that your heads are ripe, and that it’s time for us to pluck them.”

Also present in Afrin were the White Helmets, the supposed civil defense outfit that was nominated for a Nobel Prize, celebrated by the Western media as life-saving rescuers, and heavily funded by the US and UK governments. The White Helmets had arrived as auxiliaries of the Islamist mercenary forces, and were operating as Turkish proxies themselves.


Mark Ames

@MarkAmesExiled
Kurdish media: "The White Helmets in Afrin have drawn backlash from some residents who are accusing the group of whitewashing Turkey’s occupation of the northwestern Syrian Kurdish enclave" http://www.kurdistan24.net/en/news/5820 ... 55811f145a



White Helmets return to Afrin to mixed reception
The White Helmets in Afrin have drawn backlash from some residents who are accusing the group of whitewashing Turkey’s occupation of the northwestern Syrian Kurdish enclave.

kurdistan24.net


10:35 AM - Aug 28, 2018


After Turkey and its rebel proxies ethnically cleansed the Kurdish-majority community of Afrin, the White Helmets pledged to “rebuilt it,” to “restore the city to its former beauty and utility.” In a photo op, they even spelled out the Arabic word Afrin with the bodies of their volunteers:


The White Helmets

@SyriaCivilDef
"Together we can rebuild it... Afrin". #WhiteHelmets are set and ready to go in the city of #Afrin for their latest community work campaigns to restore the city to its former beauty and utility. #Syria

10:55 AM - Aug 1, 2018


This October, when Turkish-backed Islamist fighters stormed back into northern Syria, atrocities immediately followed.

Hevrin Khalaf, a Syrian Kurdish legislator, was pulled from her car by the militiamen and executed along with her driver. Other Kurds, including two unarmed captives, were filmed as they were murdered by the Turkish proxies. The mercenary gangs went on to deliberately free ISIS captives from unguarded prisons, releasing hundreds of their ideological soulmates to the battlefield.

Prolific promoters of the “moderate rebels” run from their records
When the Turkish military and its proxy force overwhelmed the Kurdish YPG this October, Hillary Clinton angrily denounced their brutality.

Back in 2012, however, when Clinton was Secretary of State, she junketed to Istanbul to rally support for those very same militias during a “Friends of Syria” conference convened by Erdogan.

She later remarked, “The hard men with the guns are going to be the more likely actors in any political transition than those on the outside just talking. And therefore we needed to figure out how we could support them on the ground, better equip them…”

One of those “hard men” is Salim Idriss, today the “Defense Minister” of Syria’s non-existent “provisional government” and de facto leader of the mercenary forces dispatched by Turkey into northern Syria. He has pledged, “We will fight against all terror organizations led by the PYD/PKK.”

Back in 2013, however, Idriss was lionized in Washington and hyped as a future leader of Syria.

When the later Sen. John McCain made his notorious surprise visit to the Turkish-Syrian border in May 2013, hoping to inspire a US military intervention, he was warmly welcomed by Idriss, the then-leader of the US-backed Free Syrian Army.

“What we want from the US government is to take the decision to support the Syrian revolution with weapons and ammunition, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons,” Idris told Josh Rogin, a reporter and neoconservative booster of regime change in Syria.

Though Idriss and his allies never got the full-scale intervention they sought from the Obama administration, they did receive shipments of heavy weapons, including hundreds of anti-tank TOW missiles.

They were also showered with adulation by droves of hyper-ambitious foreign correspondents from corporate Western outlets.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward was an especially enthusiastic promoter of the FSA, embedding with its fighters, painting them as a heroic resistance. When she returned to Syria years later, she used a top mouthpiece of Syria’s local Al Qaeda affiliate as a fixer for her unequivocally pro-opposition “Inside Aleppo” series.


CNN’s Clarissa Ward, then of CBS, with the FSA in 2011
Danny Gold was also among the flocks of Western reporters that embedded with the armed opposition during the height of the insurgency against Damascus. In 2013, he churned around a piece for Vice on “chatting about ‘Game of Thrones'” with a group of fighters from Jabhat al-Nusra, Al Qaeda’s local franchise.


Danny Gold

@DGisSERIOUS
No fly zone. No fly zone. No fly zone.

9:18 PM - Oct 22, 2012
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Gold and a clique of rabid online regime change zealots spent the rest of their time clamoring for US intervention in the country and viciously denigrating anyone who disagreed. Gold has, for instance, likened The Grayzone’s factual coverage of Syria to Nazi propaganda.

This October, when the Turkish invasion of northern Syria began, Gold reported that one of the FSA fighters he embedded with back in 2013 was taking part in the assault on Kurdish positions.


Danny Gold

@DGisSERIOUS
· Oct 13, 2019
opened up facebook to see a fighter I had embedded with in 2013 is active in one of the Turkish backed groups attacking northeast Syria right now. He's from Ras Al Ayn, was originally in a mixed kurd/arab FSA group that fought the YPG there in 2013.


Danny Gold

@DGisSERIOUS
I lost touch with him years ago. It's just strange to see the trajectory people have taken in this war. He lost friends to Nusra, ISIS, and the YPG. And he lost his city. Sad to see him now participating in this operation.

54
11:24 AM - Oct 13, 2019
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Like Hillary Clinton and the rest of the Islamist fighters’ former boosters, Gold was clearly struggling with a case of cognitive dissonance. Unable to take responsibility for promoting these extremists as they rampaged across Syria for years, or for smearing anyone who forcefully opposed the regime change agenda, he lashed out at his critics: “Almost as if war is complicated and doesn’t fit into the neat little box the anime teens in my mentions don’t realize,” he tweeted.

As members of a former US proxy ruthlessly prey on a present day US proxy, Western pundits and politicians are hoping that no one notices that they spent the past seven years celebrating the former group. They are initiating a cover-up, not only of the blowback unfolding in northern Syria, but of their own records.

This band of hacks is now fully exposed for foisting a bloody scam on the public, marketing some of the most brutal fanatics on the planet as revolutionaries and “moderate rebels” while they destabilized an entire region. Like the extremists they once promoted, most have somehow managed to evade accountability and remain employed.

Below is SETA’s list of Turkish “national army” militias, outlining the type of US support each one received over the years. (Click on the image to enlarge it)

We meet at the borders of our being, we dream something of each others reality. - Harvey of R.I.

To Justice my maker from on high did incline:
I am by virtue of its might divine,
The highest Wisdom and the first Love.

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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Oct 21, 2019 8:15 am


Richard Engel

US officials tell me Trump wants to wash his hands of responsibility for the Kurds. The US mil/gov gave Kurds REPEATED assurances of protection. US even asked Kurds to REMOVE defenses BEFORE the Turkish offensive. Kurds complied and now being displaced. WH says not our problem.
https://twitter.com/LincolnsBible?ref_s ... r%5Eauthor



U.S. once stopped ethnic cleansing, now it excuses it in Syria - Analysis
One unarmed female politician, a victim of what Turkish media called a “successful neutralization” was dragged by her hair by jihadists and shot to death.

October 21, 2019 13:22

An explosion and smoke are seen over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain as seen from the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, Turkey, October 12, 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/STOYAN NENOV)
In the 1990s the US was adamantly opposed to ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, leading efforts to prevent it. In the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from parts of Syria it increasingly looks like Washington will sign off on the population transfer of Kurds from areas that Turkey has demanded. Already 200,000 people have been displaced, mostly Kurds, because of the US decision and Turkey’s invasion.



On Sunday Trump tweeted that the ceasefire the US helped broker was “holding up very nicely. There are some minor skirmishes that have ended quickly. New areas being resettled with Kurds.” These “new areas” are areas that Kurds have been forced to flee to by the fighting and Turkish-backed jihadists who have indiscriminately shelled. One unarmed female politician, a victim of what Turkish media called a “successful neutralization” was dragged by her hair by jihadists and shot to death.



Trump says the new US plan is to “secure the oil.” In the process the US sent Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to negotiate a pause in Turkey’s offensive. In that pause the civilians of Sere Kaniye were removed in a convoy of ambulances, the end process in ethnic cleansing of civilians from areas that Ankara calls a “safe zone.” Into that area Turkey says it will settle millions of Arab refugees from other parts of Syria, a plan Ankara showed to the UN in September.



In the 1990s these kinds of efforts were called ethnic cleansing. The US helped broker the Dayton Accords in 1995 with the leader of the Republic of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic, president of Croatia Franjo Tudjman and President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegovic. The agreement tried to lay down the areas of control in Bosnia between Serbs and Bosnians and Croats after years of war and allegations of ethnic cleansing. The US attempted to stop the violence, not give a stamp of approval for the removal of minorities, the way it has done in Syria.



In Kosovo the US also worked to stop violence. In this case it was more than 1 million Kosovar Albanians who had fled fighting between Serbia and Kosovar insurgents. The US worked through the Rambouillet Agreement of 1998 and eventually pushed for bombing in 1999 against Serbia. Twenty years later the US has done the opposite in Syria. After five years of working alongside mostly Kurdish fighters to defeat ISIS, the US decided on October 6 to withdraw from parts of Syria and to open the door for a Turkish attack on its former Syrian Democratic Forces partners. Since then, despite uproar in US media and among members of Congress, the US has distanced itself from its former SDF partners, and sought to work closely with Ankara to find a way to rid itself of the SDF and bring Turkey into northern Syria as the US withdraws.



US Senator Lindsey Graham, initially an opponent of Trump’s policy, now argues that the US has a chance at “historic solutions in Syria.” It appears that the new US push will be for Washington to keep control of oil fields near the Euphrates river while Turkey gets part of northern Syria and several hundred thousand Kurdish civilians are forced to flee. Unlike in the 1990s the US has shown no interest in listening to any of the Kurdish civilians in Syria. Even though Washington was involved with eastern Syria for five years, no voices from among the civilians have been invited to give their testimonies, the US has done nothing to investigate or monitor the bombing of its own SDF partners and done nothing to prevent attacks on civilians. Unlike in the Balkans where there was no US presence in Kosovo or Bosnia prior to the US attempt to prevent further violence, the US had a presence in eastern Syria but did not task its presence on the ground with reporting on possible human rights violations.



The Trump comments about moving Kurds to “new areas” and Graham’s discussions of a “solution” point to an acceptance that civilians have been forced to flee and will not return. Already thousands are coming to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The US has shown no support for them, even though it was a US decision on October 6 who led to their uprooting. The chemical burn victims, who were burned by ordnance dropped on them near the Turkish border, are also receiving no visits by US officials to see if the war unleashed after October 6 involved the use of banned weapons.
https://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/The-U ... sis-605263




10/16/2019

The Madman and the Turks
It's definitely new to be living in a country led by someone who is, at the very least, quickly deteriorating mentally. Hell, at least Ronald Reagan had the sense to let others do his job when his faculties were fading. But that's the kindest reading of President Donald Trump. More likely, Trump is someone who has never had whatever part of the brain allows for empathy and human decency, and the vicissitudes of time, as well as the weight of decades of extravagant criminality and the exertion of keeping all of that hidden, not to mention being, you know, president, have worn out any stability that remained. For lack of an elegant phrase, he's a fucking madman.

This madness was clearly on display today in his dealing with Turkey's attacks on the Kurds in Syria, something that is happening because Trump is removing all U.S. troops whose presence was protecting our allies in fighting ISIS terrorists in the region. Indeed, when Trump says, "We defeated 100% of the ISIS caliphate," what he's really saying is that Syrian Kurds fought hard against ISIS, losing 11,000 soldiers in the battle, with some support from the United States (and, no, 100% has not been defeated). Because Trump is a madman, listening to the demonstrably evil Stephen Miller, he gave another madman, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is a savage dictator, the go-ahead to mass murder the Syrian Kurds. This shit is complicated. Read up on it yourself.

But, bottom line, we dicked over an ally and we are already responsible for hundreds of deaths of civilians and soldiers, likely to be in the thousands soon, and we undermined everything our military had done for the last five years in the region. In fact, in hasty retreat, we're bombing our own outposts so that the weapons there don't get used by the Kurds or the Turks (they're both using arms we sold them, so, hey, capitalism).

At another of his press meets of the damned, this time with the president of Italy getting to sit awkwardly while the president of the United States went full Mussolini, Trump shit all over the Kurds. And it may as well have been literal shitting. He may as well have walked over to a giant map of Syria and squeezed out a turd over the northeastern section and said, "Yeah, that's what I mean."

Because, see, he really did say, "The Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight. And, as I said, they’re not angels. They’re not angels, if you take a look. You have to go back and take a look. But they fought with us. We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us, and that’s okay. They did well when they fought with us; they didn’t do so well when they didn’t fight with us." Everything is transactional with Trump because he's just a chintzy, cheap, cheating motherfucker who stiffs people on the bill. He thinks that what he did was "strategically brilliant" because he believes he saved a few bucks. The dumb son of a bitch might just get us dragged into a war with Turkey, Syria, and Russia, but, hey, his idiot hordes think he's wise as fuck and that's all that matters.

Shit got even dumber with the letter that Trump really sent to Erdogan to convince the mad, cruel dictator to stop killing people. Trump really said, "I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy -- and I will." He really said that history "will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen." He really said, "Don't be a tough guy." He really said, "Don't be a fool!" He really used exclamation points. He really talked about making a deal, like he was creating material for another of his shitty books. Our goddamn president wrote the equivalent of an old shut-in's letter to the editor about how those darn teenagers ride around with their music too loud.

It would be embarrassing, like everything else in this stupid time we're condemned to live through, except that there are lives in the balance. Hundreds of thousands of lives. The Kurdish defense force, the 60,000 troops that the U.S. trained, has already crumbled. The Kurds have been forced to ally with Bashar al-Assad's Syrian military for protection, which will likely expand the conflict and give Assad a region he had more or less lost. And Turkey is telling the United States to go fuck itself with its call for a cease fire.

Republicans have already allowed Trump to defy Congress on subpoenas and other matters. Even if the GOP got on board with more than just words in opposition to Trump on this, they've already given Trump the ability to say, "Nah. Fuck you. I'm just gonna do what I want and call it brilliant." Like every madman in history.

(Note: Yeah, ISIS exists only because of the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq. And, yes, regime change is a bullshit goal. You are very smart to say that. Pat yourself on your righteous back. But that's not what's going on in this situation. This is about allowing a slaughter of people who did everything we asked of them to try to stop a Frankenstein monster of our creation. You can oppose war and oppose a massacre. In fact, you're an asshole if you can't do both. Some of us have been consistent when it comes to genocide and ethnic cleansing, which this isn't yet, but could be. In other words, comparing a belief in preventing the slaughter of the Kurds to support for the war in Iraq is dumb and you are dumb if you think that.)
http://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2019/10/ ... turks.html


‘SAD FOR AMERICA’
Russian Media Cheers Trump’s Moves in Syria: ‘Putin Won the Lottery!’
For Russia, Trump’s presidency is a gift that keeps on giving. The Kremlin’s propagandists see no acceptable alternative among any viable presidential candidates in 2020.

Julia Davis
Updated 10.19.19 4:39PM ET / Published 10.19.19 4:28PM ET

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty
President Trump has boasted he’s “getting a lot of praise” for his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops out of northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds—America’s longstanding allies—to Turkey’s incursion. On the home front, the controversial move has been met with criticism on both sides of the political aisle, but the reaction in Moscow was far from mixed. As Trump uncorked chaos in the Middle East, champagne tops were likely popping at the Kremlin.

“Putin won the lottery! Russia’s unexpected triumph in the Middle East,” raved Mikhail Rostovsky in his article for the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Those who were convinced of Trump’s uselessness for Russia ought to think again...What Washington got out of this strange move is completely unclear. To the contrary, what Moscow gained from this is self-evident...Trump’s mistake in Syria is the unexpected ‘lottery win’ that further strengthened Moscow’s position in the Middle East and undermined America’s prestige as a rational political player and a reliable partner.”

Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the leading Russian business daily Kommersant, was amazed by the ongoing stream of inexplicable actions by the American president that benefit the Kremlin. “All of this benefits the Russian Federation,” Yusin marveled. “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent? He is laboring so hard to strengthen the international image of Russia in general—and Putin in particular...In this situation, Americans—to their chagrin and our enjoyment—are the only losers in this situation.”

“This is such a pleasure,” grinned Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russia’s state television program 60 Minutes. “Russian soldiers have taken an American base under our complete control, without a fight!” Skabeeva’s co-host Evgeny Popov added: “Suddenly, we have defeated everyone.” Incredulously, Skabeeva pointed out: “This is an American base—and they just ran away! Trump ran away!”

ROTTEN
The U.S. Spoiled a Deal That Might Have Saved the Kurds

Christopher Dickey,
Spencer Ackerman

“It’s been a long time since America has been humiliated this way,” gloated political analyst Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak, “They ran away in shame! I can’t recall such a scenario since Vietnam.” He added: “For us, this is of great interest, because this is a key region where energy prices are being determined. That is a shining cherry on top.” Political scientist Andrey Nikulin concurred: “This is sad for America. A smaller-scale version of what happened in Vietnam.”

Appearing on the nightly television show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, political analyst Evgeny Satanovsky recounted many ways in which Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria and abandon the Kurds has hurt the image and standing of the United States: “America betrayed everyone...Trump also strengthened the anti-American mood in Turkey, when he promised to destroy the Turkish economy.” Satanovsky opined that now any economic problems or currency fluctuations in Turkey can be blamed directly on the United States, prompting textile, tobacco, steel and other industries to turn away from America. “Anti-Americanism in Turkey is off the charts,” Satanovsky pointed out, “American politics are tangled in their own shoelaces... America is successfully self-eliminating from the region.”

“You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent?”
— Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the Russian business daily Kommersant,
The timing also struck the Russians as incredibly fortuitous and inexplicable. “They lost their only chance to remove [Syrian President] Bashar Assad,” exclaimed Russian lawmaker Oleg Morozov, appearing on 60 Minutes, “They were only half a step away!”

President Trump’s primitive letter to the President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also delighted the Russians. Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russia’s 60 Minutes, sarcastically pointed out that President Trump seems to be unfamiliar with even the most basic manners: “We should send a message to the American president: ‘Don’t call people names. Don’t fight. Don’t pick your nose. It’s nasty and unacceptable.’” Host Evgeny Popov said that the Turkish president threw Trump’s letter in the trash and remarked: “But who wouldn’t? The only thing missing was for Trump to call Erdoğan ‘dude.’” For his part, President Erdoğan said he “cannot forget” the letter in question and ominously promised that Turkey would “do what’s necessary” concerning the letter “when the time comes.”

Discussing the exchanges between President Trump and President Erdoğan, Leonid Kalashnikov, Chairman of Russian State Duma Committee for the Commonwealth of Independent States affairs, commented: “I don’t care that those two clowns write such letters to each other. You can only pity them. Is it better for us that the Americans left Syria? Of course it is! Will we make deals with Erdoğan? Of course we will.”

ART OF THE DEAL
Pence Just Ratified All of Turkey’s War Aims in Syria

Spencer Ackerman

Pundits all over the Russian state media pondered out loud about the merits of Trump’s self-proclaimed “infinite wisdom” of pulling the U.S. forces out of northern and eastern Syria, concluding that the decision was an enormous blow to America’s standing, undermining its current and potential alliances. On the other hand, Turkey is delighted with the outcome. Vice President Mike Pence gave Erdoğan everything the Turkish side has been attempting to achieve, in exchange for a promised five-day pause in the offensive. A Turkish official told Middle East Eye, “We got exactly what we wanted out of the meeting.” At the conclusion of the five-day pause, Erdoğan will be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi.

Appearing on 60 Minutes, Franz Klintsevich, a member of the Federation Council's Committee on Defense and Security, declared that Russia will take full advantage of America’s withdrawal from the Middle East, becoming a top player in the region. Klintsevich argued that America’s withdrawal from Syria represented Russia’s “global victory” and “demonstrated the absolute superiority of Russia’s arms, diplomacy and foreign policy.”

During the same show, political analyst Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak was overcome with gratitude: “I look at Trump and think: ‘May God grant him good health—and another term. This is a great situation for Russia...We can practically sit back and reap the dividends from what others are doing...Meanwhile, Trump is yet to make a single good deal, which is why I wish him good health, may he flourish and get re-elected...Trump is a great candidate. I applaud him...For America, this isn’t a very good president.”

RELATED IN WORLD

Trump’s Syria Fiasco Is Part of Putin’s To-Do List

Russia’s Fingerprints Are on Trump’s Whistleblower Scandal
"Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council In Yerevan, Armenia October 1, 2019. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC1EF9F80670"
Russia Taunts Ukraine for Signing Moscow Peace-Plan Terms
To the contrary—for Russia, Trump’s presidency is a gift that keeps on giving. The Kremlin’s propagandists see no acceptable alternative to Trump amongst any viable presidential candidates in the United States. Complaining about prevailing anti-Russian attitudes, Vladimir Soloviev—host of the nightly television show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev—sarcastically surmised: “So it looks like we’ll have to elect your president—again.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/russian-m ... he-lottery
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby seemslikeadream » Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:59 pm

Adam Klasfeld

NEW: BigLaw firm King & Spalding, which registered as an agent for the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under FARA in 2017, claims it's not authorized to accept service for the now-indicted Halkbank, which the firm represented during the DOJ investigation.
Image
9:13 AM - 21 Oct 2019

Reminder: Halkbank's former Trump-connected lobbyist Ballard Partners terminated its lucrative contract the day after the Turkish state-run bank's indictment.

More context: King & Spalding advises Trump's real estate empire, and its ties to the administration have been the subject of multiple news reports.

From June 2017

Trump Picks Christopher Wray to Be F.B.I. Director
JUNE 7, 2017

Christopher Wray, then assistant attorney general, in 2005. Lawrence Jackson/Associated Press
The president revealed his decision in an early-morning tweet without alerting members of Congress in advance. It came on the eve of a blockbuster congressional hearing scheduled for Thursday in which James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director he ousted abruptly last month, was to testify about what he interpreted as improper attempts by Mr. Trump to pressure him.
The selection may have been an attempt to inject credibility into an investigation of his campaign’s possible ties with Russia, one that has been rocked by accusations of presidential tampering.

Mr. Wray is a safe, mainstream pick from a president who at one point was considering politicians for a job that has historically been kept outside of partisanship. A former assistant attorney general overseeing the Justice Department’s criminal division under President George W. Bush, Mr. Wray is likely to allay the fears of F.B.I. agents who worried that Mr. Trump would try to weaken or politicize the F.B.I.

“Christopher Wray knows the Justice Department, is not a politician, and has a background in federal law enforcement,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, calling those his “minimum qualifications” for the next agency director. “Above all, he will need to show his commitment to protecting the bureau’s independence. That independence is more important than ever given the inevitable conflicts with the interests of the man who sits in the Oval Office.”

Those concerns were only stoked on Wednesday with the release of prepared testimony by Mr. Comey in which he recounted how Mr. Trump at one point asked him to shut down the bureau’s investigation of Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser, whose ties with Russia are under investigation. Mr. Comey also said that the president had repeatedly pressed for him to say publicly that Mr. Trump was not personally under investigation.

“In light of the president’s constant efforts to block the truth,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, “the nomination of Christopher Wray should be subject to the utmost scrutiny.”

Some civil liberties organizations expressed deep reservations about Mr. Wray, a litigation partner at King & Spalding, a law firm that advises Mr. Trump’s family real estate empire.

“Christopher Wray’s firm’s legal work for the Trump family, his history of partisan activity, as well as his history of defending Trump’s transition director during a criminal scandal makes us question his ability to lead the F.B.I. with the independence, evenhanded judgment, and commitment to the rule of law that the agency deserves,” said Faiz Shakir, the national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, referring to Mr. Christie and the Bridgegate case.

Mr. Shakir said Mr. Wray would also have to “come clean about his role” in legal justifications for the use of torture during the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks.

Mr. Wray, two administration officials said, is a hybrid selection for Mr. Trump: He is a seasoned criminal lawyer who bonded with Mr. Christie when both were young lawyers in the Justice Department, and a highly regarded criminal defense lawyer who represented Mr. Christie in the aftermath of the scandal over traffic jams that rocked his governorship.

That his political skills were honed in the crucible of scandal gave him an edge over the other finalist, John S. Pistole, a former deputy director of the F.B.I. and head of the Transportation Security Administration, the officials said. He managed to soothe and counsel the volatile Mr. Christie.

“Chris is a wonderful choice to lead the F.B.I. who cares deeply about the institution and already has strong relationships with the F.B.I.,” Alice Fisher, who followed Mr. Wray as chief of the Justice Department criminal division and was also interviewed to be F.B.I. director, wrote in an email. “His background at the helm of the criminal division offered an excellent experience working on national security, white-collar crime and a range of federal crimes.”

The pick caps an extraordinary period in which Mr. Trump has been buffeted by his own shifting explanations for why he dismissed Mr. Comey, allegations that he shared highly classified information with top Russian officials in the Oval Office and the naming of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into his campaign’s possible ties with Moscow.

The decision was being closely watched for signals about how the president will forge ahead amid the swirl of developments set off by Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Some Democrats have said impeachment proceedings should begin against him.

Mr. Trump met Tuesday with his two finalists, Mr. Wray and Mr. Pistole, the White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, said. The president had hoped to quickly pick a replacement for Mr. Comey before he embarked on his nine-day overseas trip in mid-May but was dissuaded from doing so by many of his top advisers, including the chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel.

Mr. Wray played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, providing oversight of Justice Department operations as the country adjusted to a new reality and working alongside Mr. Comey and Robert S. Mueller III, then the F.B.I. director and now a special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation. As head of the criminal division from 2003 to 2005, Mr. Wray directed efforts to deal with fraud scandals plaguing the corporate world.

Mr. Trump, who fired Mr. Comey without having put in motion a plan to find his successor, conducted a lengthy search, at one point zeroing in on Joseph I. Lieberman, the former Democratic senator and vice-presidential nominee, as a preferred finalist, even as he considered F.B.I. veterans including Adam S. Lee, the special agent in charge of the bureau’s Richmond, Va., field office; Richard A. McFeely, a former senior official; and Andrew G. McCabe, the acting director. Mr. Lieberman later withdrew from consideration.

“I’m encouraged that President Trump has nominated someone with significant federal law enforcement experience, rather than a career in partisan politics, as was rumored over the past several weeks,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware and a member of the Judiciary panel.

It was during an interview with one of the prospective candidates at the White House that Mr. Trump received word of the appointment of Mr. Mueller as special counsel. Mr. Mueller is empowered to investigate a broad range of topics related to the Russia inquiry, potentially including the president’s own interactions with Mr. Comey.

While Mr. Wray’s reputation is not as a partisan operative, he has donated consistently to Republican candidates in recent years. Over the past decade, he has contributed at least $35,000 to Republican candidates or committees, according to data maintained by the Federal Election Commission. He did not do so during the 2016 election, but he has donated to Republican presidential nominees, including $2,300 to support Senator John McCain of Arizona in 2008 and $7,500 to back Mitt Romney in 2012.

Before joining the leadership of the Justice Department in Washington in 2001 as an associate deputy attorney general, Mr. Wray served as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta. He graduated from Yale University in 1989 and earned his law degree in 1992 from Yale Law School.

Republicans praised Mr. Trump’s choice even as they expressed surprise about the way in which it was unveiled.

“I learned about it from Twitter,” Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a corridor in the Capitol. “But then, I learn a lot of things about the president from Twitter.”

Glenn Thrush reported from Cincinnati, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis from Washington. Adam Goldman and Robert Pear contributed reporting from Washington.
http://archive.is/tQMDu
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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:20 pm

Russians say Kurds have 150 hours to leave Syrian boarder area

New front in Syria's war: Why Manbij matters
As Turkey presses ahead, strategic city becomes a potential flashpoint between its allied forces and the Syrian army.

Farah Najjar16 Oct 2019
New front in Syria's war: Why Manbij matters
Turkey's forces advance towards Manbij, Syria [Ugur Can/DHA via AP]
Sanliurfa, Turkey - Despite mounting international pressure, fresh US sanctions and the potential of a direct confrontation with Syrian government forces, Ankara is pressing ahead with its week-long military operation in northeast Syria.

Following the seizure of border towns and villages from Kurdish fighters, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday pledged to push on with a plan to further drive the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers a "terrorist" organisation, away from the border area.

With its forces having made their way east of the Euphrates River, Ankara has now set its sights on Manbij, a strategic Arab-majority city that has been under SDF control since 2016.

Turkey-allied fighters with the opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) began gathering on Manbij's outskirts late on Monday, a day after the United States announced it was withdrawing its troops from the region.

Washington's move was followed by reports that Syrian government troops were mobilising close to Manbij after the SDF forged a last-minute, Moscow-brokered deal with Damascus to fend off Turkey's military push.

By Tuesday, a small unit of Syrian government soldiers had entered Manbij for the first time since 2012, while videos circulating on social media showed armed government loyalists raising the Syrian flag on buildings in the city's centre.

Meanwhile, Russia, a major military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said its forces were patrolling front lines between the Turkey-allied forces and Syrian army positions outside the city to prevent a confrontation.

The developments have not only signalled the opening of a new front in Syria's devastating war, now in its eighth year, but also the looming end of SDF rule in this area, according to observers.

"The SDF fell surprisingly quickly," said Omar Kouch, a Turkey-based Syrian analyst, adding that despite Russia's efforts to "mediate between them and the Syrian government", the group has been left to fend for itself.

"Their dream of creating a state along the 'Rojava' region would be over if the Syrian government asserted its control," Kouch said, referring to the SDF's efforts to establish an autonomous federation in northeastern Syria.

What is Manbij's strategic importance?

Located in the middle of the northern belt of Syria, Manbij has been a target for most of the players in Syria's conflict due to the supply lines that run through it. It has frequently changed hands during the course of the war: After being seized by anti-Assad rebels in 2012, the city was captured by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) group in 2014, who then, in turn, lost it to the SDF three years ago.

A local economic hub, Manbij is situated adjacent to the M4 highway, a major commercial route that connects the western port city of Latakia to Aleppo, Raqqa and oil-rich Deir Az Zor in the east.

For al-Assad, controlling the highway could help rebuild the country's war-ravaged economy.

"The Syrian government has been eyeing Manbij for years,"Century Foundation fellow Aron Lund said. "Today, they saw the US troop withdrawal and Russian support as an opportunity to do so."
Image
Syria map
For Ankara, on the other hand, gaining a foothold in the area would mean preventing the SDF from moving back and forth along the Euphrates, while also isolating SDF-controlled Hassakeh and Qamishli from government-controlled Aleppo.

Manbij is also significant for Turkey's plan to carve out a so-called "safe zone" cleared of Kurdish fighters where some of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees currently residing on its soil can be returned to.

On Monday, Erdogan played down suggestions that expanding the operation into Manbij would cause a point of conflict with Russia, citing Moscow's "positive approach".

Marwan Kabalan, Syrian writer and researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, said Moscow could reach an "understanding" with Ankara that would entail an SDF withdrawal - leaving effective control in Russian hands.

For Erdogan, such an agreement would prove more effective than previous failed attempts to reach an agreement with the US over his goal to create the "safe zone" at least 30km (19 miles) deep inside Syria.

Accessing Manbij is seen as essential in the efforts to establish such a zone and link it to other parts seized during Turkey's two previous military operations into northern Syria, according to analysts.

"If he [Erdogan] also figures out a way to get the Kobane (Ain al-Arab) region, he can connect all Turkish-ruled areas in northern Syria to each other in what would, more or less, be the border zone he has been speaking of," Lund said.

Turkey has long said it wants the border area to be cleared of the SDF, which is spearheaded by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG). Ankara views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an outlawed group that has been waging a decades-long armed campaign for autonomy within Turkish borders.
Image
INTERACTIVE: Syria control map OCT 9 2019
What does this mean for Manbij's locals?

According to locals, Manbij is home to an estimated 700,000 people, including thousands of internally displaced people.

Despite being under SDF control, at least 80 percent of the city's inhabitants are ethnically Arab, with its "social fabric" consisting of 29 tribes, said Hassan al-Hussein, a member of the Manbij Tribes council, a network of tribal representatives.

For al-Hussein, the Ankara-led operation is an opportunity to expel the SDF, whose fighters, he says, have committed rights violations against the local population.

"Any country that manages to help us return safely to Manbij is our ally," said al-Hussein, who is based in Turkey's southeastern border city of Sanliurfa after fleeing Manbij in 2015. "For now, it is only Turkey that is willing to do so."

According to al-Hussein, the council has on several occasions attempted to "reach out to the US for assistance" but to no avail - formed in 2015, the SDF was Washington's main ground ally in the fight against ISIL.

"We wanted to explain the violations that were committed against us, to present reports from our people on the ground, and establish meetings with US officials," al-Hussein said.

"This is why we condemn the US … We hold them responsible for what has happened to us."

When the SDF took over control of the city in June 2016, after pushing out ISIL with the support of a US-led coalition, the group "attempted to impose a racial divide", al-Hassan said.

"They control administrations, oil and gas fields, and do not let us anywhere near these institutions," he said, referring to the oil-rich eastern region as a whole.

In October 2015, Amnesty International accused the YPG of forcibly evicting Arabs and Turkmens from areas they took control of after driving ISIL out. It said the instances of forced displacement, and the demolition and confiscation of civilian property constituted "war crimes", allegations the SDF denied.
Image
1) Mahmoud Asaad, gestures as he speaks alongside his friend from nearby Raqqa province [Farah Najjar/ Al Jazeera]
'Today, with Turkey's ongoing operation, we believe that they're trying to help us go back,' Mahmoud Assad, right, says [Hosam Salem/Al Jazeera]
Al-Hussein also alleged there have previously been cases of "random arrests" of people accused of being in contact with Turkey or the FSA.

"These are parts of violations and a means to discriminate against Arabs in the area," he said.

Yet, al-Hussein stressed the "brotherly bond" between Arabs and Kurds, noting that it was still "very much intact".

"We're brothers with the civilian Kurds in Manbij … Our problems came with the arrival of the YPG," he said.

Mahmoud Assad, a 57-year-old ethnically Arab Syrian from Manbij, agreed.

"We will always welcome our Kurdish brothers, just like we did before," said Asaad, originally from the al-Haib tribe and now residing in Sanliurfa.

"Today, with Turkey's ongoing operation, we believe that they're trying to help us go back," he added.

"This is precisely what we want … Our people fled unrest in 2013, and we all want to return ... How can one turn their back on their own roots?"
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ ... 57365.html
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby seemslikeadream » Wed Oct 23, 2019 9:30 am

Russia urges Kurdish fighters to withdraw from Syria's border
Kremlin spokesman warns YPG militia to evacuate northeast Syria quickly or get 'steamrolled' by the Turkish military.

2 hours ago
Russia urges Kurdish fighters to withdraw from Syria's border
Turkey's defence ministry is signaling it will not resume its offensive in northeast Syria [Bakr Alkasem/AFP]
Russia has warned Kurdish forces to quickly withdraw from the Turkey-Syria border - after a deal between Moscow and Ankara - or be crushed by the Turkish army, adding that the United States had "betrayed and abandoned" the Syrian fighters.

Wednesday's comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov followed a deal agreed on Tuesday between Turkey and Russia that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria to remove Kurdish fighters and their weapons from the border.

Peskov, reportedly reacting to comments by US President Donald Trump's special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, complained that it appeared the Americans were encouraging the Kurds to stay close to the Syrian border to fight the Turkish army.

More:

Syria's Assad calls Erdogan a 'thief'

Are Russia and Turkey on the same side in Syria?

Syrian Kurds and their dilemma in Turkey

"The United States has been the Kurds' closest ally in recent years. [But] in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them," Peskov was quoted as saying. "Now they [the US] prefer to leave the Kurds at the border [with Turkey] and almost force them to fight the Turks."

If the Kurds did not withdraw as per the deal, Peskov said Syrian border guards and Russian military police would have to withdraw, leaving the Kurds to deal with the Turkish army.

The Kurdish fighters would be "steamrolled" by the Turks, he said.

A column of Russian military police arrived in the city of Kobane in northern Syria, Russia's defence ministry said on Wednesday, according to the TASS news agency.

The military police will help facilitate the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin assured him that Kurdish fighters will not be allowed to remain in Syria along the Turkish border wearing "regime clothes".

Twice betrayed

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Turkey's Akcakale at the border with Syria, said there was no word yet from the Kurdish fighters about the Russia-Turkey agreement.

"The fact of the matter is though the Kurdish forces are in a very difficult position, they accuse the Americans of letting them down, of being stabbed in the back, withdrawing their forces for the Turks to attack," he said.

"They were then forced to turn to the Syrian regime and the Russians for help. And now we have this agreement between the Russians and the Turks demanding that the remaining Kurdish forces withdraw," he added.

Turkey's defence ministry has signalled it will not resume its offensive in northeast Syria, saying: "At this stage, there is no further need to conduct a new operation outside the present operation area."

But the country's foreign minister later said Turkish forces would "neutralise" any remaining Syrian Kurdish fighters they come across in areas now under Turkish control in northeastern Syria.

"If there are terrorist remnants, we would clear them," Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkey's Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

Cavusoglu said the deal with Russia - which foresees joint Turkish-Russian patrols after the withdrawal of Kurdish forces - would continue until a lasting political solution for Syria is reached.

He said the border areas would be locally administered, mostly by Arabs.

Cavusoglu also said Turkey agreed not to conduct joint patrols in the city of Qamishli, because of Russian concerns that such a move could lead to a confrontation between Turkish troops and Syrian government forces who have long been present in the area.

Turkish operation

On October 9, Turkey launched an offensive aimed at carving out a "safe zone" cleared of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Ankara considers "terrorists", as well as at repatriating some of the 3.6 million refugees it was hosting.

According to the deal with Russia, announced at a joint news conference in Sochi, Ankara will control a 32km-wide (20-mile) stretch between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, which covers 120km (75 miles) of the Turkish-Syrian border.

Beginning at noon on Wednesday, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will start removing the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which spearhead the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and their weapons 30km (19 miles) from the border area. The agreement said the move should be completed in 150 hours.

Following that, Turkish and Russian forces will run joint patrols 10km (six miles) to the east and west of the zone.

Ankara and Moscow, which have backed opposing sides in Syria's long-running war, also reiterated their commitment to the preservation of the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and the protection of national security of Turkey.

The Sochi memorandum also said the YPG and their weapons would be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat, where Syrian government forces moved in after the Kurdish-led fighters struck a deal with Damascus to fend off a Turkish assault.

Russia is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main military ally.

Turkey had long said it wanted to establish a 444km long (276-mile) and 32km wide (20-mile) "safe zone". However, during the ceasefire, the US and the SDF said the withdrawal would only cover an area of about 120km (75 miles) between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad - something that was also confirmed by the agreement reached in Sochi.

US withdrawal

The US and the European Union consider the PKK a "terrorist" group, but not the SDF and the YPG, which was Washington's main ground ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group.

In early October, President Trump announced a decision to withdraw approximately 1,000 US troops from northeast Syria, created a power vacuum in the region and paving the way for Turkey's long-threatened operation.

After days of fighting, the Kurdish fighters reached an 11th-hour agreement with Damascus which saw Syrian government troops move into some of the area's towns and villages, including the flashpoint city of Manbij, for the first time in years.

Officials in Ankara have said that Turkey did not object to Syrian government forces deploying in some of the YPG-held areas as long as the "terrorists" were removed from the region.
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/ ... 58905.html
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby JackRiddler » Wed Oct 23, 2019 12:08 pm

Trump's very first official campaign promise has been kept:

"He'll quicky cut the head off ISIS and TAKE THEIR OIL."

My tl;dr on the article by Ben Norton, below:

After the Trump-Erdogan call, US forces abruptly abandoned populated areas held by the YPG militias, betraying them and allowing the genocidal Turkish invasion that prompted the deal with Russia to conduct a for-now joint Russian-Turkish occupation of a "buffer zone" along the border to Turkey. At the same time, US forces remained within and redeployed to hold an underpopulated desert area in eastern Syria, adjacent to Iraq, that holds most of Syria's oil reserves.

Also: 1. As has been clear since everyone who thinks Trump is about ending wars or some kind of 1920s-style "non-imperialist" Republican isolationism remains an idiot, although many of them are highly well-educated paleocons with wishful delusions. 2. Everyone who says the intent of the force redeployment into the eastern Syrian desert -- where the oil lives -- is about protecting some civilians is either a liar or an even bigger idiot than the ones in item #1.

"Donald Trump's First Ad: GREAT AGAIN TV SPOT"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itsSDhgKwhw

Article
https://thegrayzone.com/2019/10/23/us-t ... syria-oil/

thegrayzone.com

US troops are staying in Syria to ‘keep the oil’ – and have already killed hundreds over it

Hundreds of American soldiers are remaining in Syria to occupy its oil reserves and block the Syrian government from revenue needed for reconstruction. Trump said openly, “We want to keep the oil.”

By Ben Norton

US President Donald Trump has told his supporters that he is “bringing soldiers home” from the “endless” war in Syria. But that is simply not the case.

While Trump has ordered a partial withdrawal of the approximately 1,000 American troops occupying Syrian territory, US military officials and the president himself have admitted that some will be staying. They will remain on Syrian soil not to ensure to safety of any group of people, but rather, to maintain control over oil fields.

The US military has already killed hundreds of Syrians, and possibly even some Russians, in order to maintain its control over these Syrian oil fields.

Washington’s obsession with toppling the Syrian government refuses to die. The United States remains committed to preventing Damascus from retaking its oil reserves, as well as its wheat-producing breadbasket region, in order to starve the government of revenue and prevent it from funding reconstruction efforts.

The Washington Post noted in 2018 that the US and its Kurdish allies were militarily occupying a massive “30 percent slice of Syria, which is probably where 90 percent of the pre-war oil production took place.”

Now, for the first time, Trump has openly confirmed the ulterior imperialist motives behind maintaining a US military presence in Syria.

“We want to keep the oil,” Trump confessed in a cabinet meeting on October 21. “Maybe we’ll have one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly,” he added.

Three days earlier, the president tweeted: “The U.S. has secured the Oil.”

The New York Times confirmed the motivations behind Trump’s policy on October 20. Citing a “senior administration official,” the newspaper reported:

“President Trump is leaning in favor of a new Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria, perhaps numbering about 200, to combat the Islamic State and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s coveted oil fields.

… A side benefit would be helping the Kurds keep control of oil fields in the east, the official said.”

Using ISIS as an excuse to occupy Syria’s oil fields
US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper – the former vice president of government relations at top weapons manufacturer Raytheon, who was promoted by Trump to US secretary of defense – revealed the actual US policy on Syria in a press conference on the 21st:

“We have troops in towns in northeast Syria that are located next to the oil fields. The troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal.

… Our forces will remain in the towns that are located near the oil fields.”

Esper added that the US military is “maintaining a combat air patrol above all of our forces on the ground in Syria.”

Unlike Trump, Esper offered an excuse to justify the continued US military occupation of Syria’s oil fields. He insisted that American soldiers remain to help the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) hold on to the resources and prevent ISIS jihadists from taking them over.

This led mainstream corporate media outlets like CNN to report, “Defense secretary says some US troops will temporarily stay in Syria to protect oil fields from ISIS.”

But any observer who carefully parsed Esper’s comments during his press conference would have been able to detect the real goal behind the prolonged US presence in northeastern Syria. As Esper said, “A purpose of those [US] forces, working with the SDF, is to deny access to those oil fields by ISIS and others who may benefit from revenues that could be earned.”

Pentagon Mark Esper troops Syria oil fields“And others who may benefit from their revenues earned” is a crucial qualifier. In fact, Esper used this language – “ISIS and others” – two more times in his presser.

Who exactly Esper meant by “others” is clear: The US strategy is to prevent Syria’s UN-recognized government and the Syrian majority that lives under its control from retaking their own oil fields and reaping the benefits of their revenue.

US military massacred hundreds to keep control of Syrian oil fields
This is not just speculation. CNN made it plain when it reported the following in an undeniably blunt passage, citing anonymous US senior military officials:

“The US military has long had military advisers embedded with the Syrian Democratic Forces near the Syrian oil fields at Deir Ezzoir ever since the area was captured from ISIS. The loss of those oil fields denied ISIS a major source of revenue, a one-time source of funds that has differentiated the organization from other terror groups.

The oil fields are assets that have also been long sought after by Russia and the Assad regime, which is strapped for cash after years of civil war. Both Moscow and Damascus hope to use oil revenues to help rebuild western Syria and solidify the regime’s hold.

In a bid to seize the oil fields, Russian mercenaries attacked the areas, leading to a clash that saw dozens if not hundreds of Russian mercenaries killed in US airstrikes, an episode that Trump has touted as proof he is tough on Russia. That action helped deter Russian or regime forces from making similar bids for the oil fields.

The US forces near the oil fields remain in place and senior military officials had previously told CNN that they would likely be among the last to leave Syria.”

CNN thus acknowledged that the US military had killed up to “hundreds” of Syrian and Russia-backed fighters seeking to gain access to Syria’s oil fields. It massacred these fighters not for humanitarian reasons, but to prevent the Syrian government from using “oil revenues to help rebuild western Syria.”

This shockingly direct admission flew in the face of the popular myth that the US was keeping troops in Syria to protect Kurds from an assault by NATO member Turkey.

The CNN report was an apparent reference to the Battle of Khasham, a little known but important episode in the eight-year international proxy war on Syria.

The battle unfolded on February 7, 2018, when the Syrian military and its allies launched an attack to try to retake major oil and gas reserves in Syria’s Deir ez-Zour governorate, which were being occupied by American troops and their Kurdish proxies.

The New York Times seemed to revel in the news that the US military massacred 200 to 300 fighters after hours of “merciless airstrikes from the United States.”

The Times repeatedly stressed that Deir ez-Zour is “oil-rich.” And it cited anonymous US officials who claimed that many of the slaughtered fighters were Russian nationals from the private military company the Wagner Group. These unnamed “American intelligence officials” told the Times that the alleged Russian fighters were “in Syria to seize oil and gas fields and protect them on behalf of the Assad government.”

The Times noted that US special operations forces from JSOC were working with Kurdish forces at an outpost next to Syria’s important Conoco gas plant. The Kurdish-led SDF had seized this facility from ISIS in 2017 with the help of the US military. The Wall Street Journal noted at the time that the “plant is capable of producing nearly 450 tons of gas a day,” and was one of ISIS’ most important sources of funding.

The newspaper added, “The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, are racing against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad for territorial gains in Syria’s east.” The commodities monitoring websites MarketWatch and OilPrice.com were closely following the story and analyzing which forces would take over one of Syria’s most important gas plants.

Starving Syria of oil and wheat, the basics of survival
For the Syrian government, regaining control over its oil and gas reserves in the eastern part of its territory is crucial to paying for reconstruction efforts and social programs — especially at a time when suffocating US and EU sanctions have crippled the economy, caused fuel shortages, and severely hurt Syria’s civilian population.

The US has aimed to prevent Damascus from retaking profitable territory, starving it of natural resources from fossil fuels to basic foodstuffs.

In 2015, then-President Barack Obama deployed US troops to northeastern Syria on the grounds of helping the Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG) fight ISIS. What started as several dozen US special operations forces quickly ballooned into some 2,000 troops, largely stationed in northeastern Syria.

As these US soldiers enabled the YPG retake territory from ISIS, they solidified Washington’s control over nearly one-third of Syrian sovereign territory — territory that just so happened to include 90 percent of Syria’s oil, as well as 70 percent of its wheat.

The US subsequently forced the Kurdish-led YPG to rebrand as the SDF, and then treated them as proxies to try to weaken the Syrian government and its allies Iran and Russia.

In June, Reuters confirmed that Kurdish-led authorities had agreed to stop selling wheat to Damascus, after the US government pressured them to do so.

The Grayzone has reported how the Center for a New American Security, a leading Democratic Party foreign policy think tank bankrolled by the US government and NATO, proposed using the “wheat weapon” to starve Syria’s civilian population.

A former Pentagon researcher-turned-senior fellow at the think tank declared openly, “Wheat is a weapon of great power in this next phase of the Syrian conflict.” He added, “It can be used to apply pressure on the Assad regime, and through the regime on Russia, to force concessions in the UN-led diplomatic process.”

Donald Trump appeared to echo this strategy in his October 21 cabinet meeting.

“We want to keep the oil, and we’ll work something out with the Kurds so that they have some money, have some cashflow,” he said. “Maybe we’ll have one of our big oil companies to go in and do it properly.”

While Trump has pledged to bring US soldiers home and end their military occupation of Syrian territory – which is illegal under international law – it is evident that the broader regime change war continues.

A brutal economic war on Damascus is escalating, not only through sanctions but through the theft of Syria’s natural treasures by foreign powers.



Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.
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US troops surround Syria on the eve of invasion?

Postby seemslikeadream » Sat Oct 26, 2019 2:13 pm

Esper: US troops, armored vehicles going to Syria oil fields
https://www.apnews.com/334caccc941b40c99f0a6b9c40cd66cc


The US is “committed” to staying in Syria — to protect oil
https://www.vox.com/2019/10/25/20931932 ... wal-troops
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby JackRiddler » Sat Oct 26, 2019 2:36 pm

So when even Mehdi Hasan is saying this, the myth of the "Syrian rebels" (at least, post-2013) is over.

theintercept.com
U.S. Must Be Held Accountable for Once Backing Syrian Rebels
Mehdi Hasanmehdi.hasan@​theintercept.com@mehdirhasan
9-11 minutes
In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from fires in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by bombardment by Turkish forces, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Wednesday on Syrian Kurdish fighters to leave a designated border area in northeast Syria 'as of tonight' for Turkey to stop its military offensive. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Smoke billows from fires in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, on Oct. 16, 2019, as seen from Ceylanpinar, Turkey.

Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Question: What unites Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, Nancy Pelosi, David Petraeus, Tom Friedman, and the editorial board of the Washington Post?

Answer: Their support for arming what they called “moderate” Syrian rebel groups between 2013 and 2017.

In recent weeks, Syrian rebel groups described only as “Turkish-backed” have murdered and mutilated their way across Kurdish-controlled areas of northeastern Syria. These fighters are guilty of “war crimes,” declared U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a recent interview. “Those responsible should be held accountable,” Esper – or is it Esperanto? – told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. “In many cases, the government of Turkey should be held accountable.”

I happen to agree with him. The government of Turkey has much to answer for, given that many of the horrific killings have been captured on camera. But I would like to see people in Washington, D.C., “held accountable” too. Top Democrats and Republicans have joined together to loudly — and rightly — lambast the Trump administration for abandoning their allies in the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF. Clinton has decried the “sickening horror” of Kurdish men, women, and children being slaughtered by Turkish-backed groups, while the likes of Petraeus and Graham have accused these groups of “ethnic cleansing.” These politicians, however, have stayed conveniently silent on their own prior advocacy on behalf of many of these rebels, while journalists have shamefully refused to mention the U.S. government’s prior support for them.

Have we so quickly forgotten how the CIA backed a range of secular and Islamist militias to fight Assad, via the covert program Timber Sycamore, while the Pentagon vetted “moderate” fighters to fight ISIS via the congressionally-approved Train and Equip Program? The former, according to a U.S. official, led to the death or injury of 100,000 Syrian army troops and their allies, while the latter was coordinated with — wait for it — Turkey.

“The groups that were educated and equipped by the United States west of the Euphrates,” wrote Turkish journalist Fehim Tastekin for Al-Monitor, “are now fighting against the groups east of the Euphrates that have been also educated and equipped by the United States.”

You wouldn’t know this, though, from watching or reading the mainstream U.S. media. The New York Times described the Turkish-backed rebels only as “fighters the United States had long rejected as extremists, criminals and thugs.”

Denialism abounds. In the wake of the fourth Democratic presidential debate, I tweeted about the “hypocrisy” of top Democrats “who wanted to arm Syrian rebels, but now slam many of those same Syrian rebels.”

Charles Lister, an analyst with the Middle East Institute, called me “ill-informed.” The fighters killing Kurds, he claimed, “are not the same” as the Free Syrian Army, or FSA — aka the secular and “moderate” fighters who were openly backed by the West in the initial stages of the conflict.

Shane Bauer, a reporter with Mother Jones, said it was “extremely dishonest” of me “to conflate the FSA of 2012 and 2013 with the mercenaries fighting for Turkey now.”

There is some validity to this argument. Although some of the the Turkish-backed fighters currently attacking the Kurds did indeed fight with the FSA back in 2012 and 2013, some of them did not. “Many of these fighters were 10 years old when the conflict started,” as one critic of mine observed. Others noted how plenty of Syrian rebels were “radicalized” over the course of a bloody conflict in which the repressive Bashar Assad regime used chemical weapons, barrel bombs, starvation, and mass torture against them.


It will be a few years before Mehdi's writing the column about oops no chemical weapons according to most of the OPCW experts investigating it.

Still others will be noting that plenty of Syrian rebels were MURDERED by the Saudi/UAE/US/Jordan/Turkish-backed "Syrian rebels" and or "Syrian" rebels who replaced them.


I don’t disagree. For the Russian government or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to suggest that every Syrian rebel group began as an offshoot of Al Qaeda or the Islamic State group, filled only with “terrorists” or “jihadis,” is a lazy and cynical rewriting of history. The Syrian revolution began in March 2011 with nonviolent protests, from Deraa to Damascus, against a vicious dictator who responded with shocking violence. Young men such as Abdul Baset al-Sarout, the former goalkeeper in Syria’s national youth football team who was profiled in the acclaimed documentary Return To Homs, went from “leading chants in the streets in 2011,” as The Guardian noted, to reluctantly “becoming a battle-worn leader for the militia.” (He was killed this summer, fighting for an Islamist militia against government forces in the north of the country.)

Plenty of these Syrian rebels, both Arabs and Kurds, both Islamists and secularists, fought not only against the Assad government, but also against Al Qaeda and ISIS. There were, however, other rebel groups that were dominated by violent Salafists and so-called jihadis from the start and who bragged about fighting alongside Al Qaeda and ISIS. The truth is that many of the rebel forces now committing war crimes against the Kurds were also committing war crimes in the early years of the Syrian civil war.

And here’s the problem: It is an equally lazy and cynical rewriting of history to pretend that these groups have nothing to do with the United States, or were never backed by the U.S. government, in their current form or with their current personnel.

How else to explain Gen. Salim Idris? He’s the current defense minister in the self-styled Syrian Interim Government, or SIG, and commander of the Syrian National Army, or SNA, the ragtag force of Turkish-backed rebel fighters that has wreaked havoc in northeastern Syria in recent weeks.

Between 2012 and 2014, though, Idris served as chief of staff to the Supreme Military Council of the West-friendly FSA. In 2013, according to the Washington Post, he was “anointed” by then Secretary of State John Kerry as “the sole conduit for aid to Syria’s rebels.” He was welcomed on CNN and MSNBC. In a glowing profile, the Times described him as “soft-spoken and humble” and declared that Syria’s future depended on “General Idris’s success on the battlefield.”

In May 2013, the Syrian rebel chief was even rewarded with the ultimate prize from the hawks in Washington: a secret visit from the late John McCain.

Got that? John McCain was an ally and supporter of a rebel commander whose forces are now being loudly condemned by a dizzying array of U.S. political and media figures including, among others, Meghan McCain. Is your head spinning yet?


Nah. I'm pretty used to this shit. Old, admittedly, but you're not such a spring chicken yourself, Mehdi.

(As for Meghan, I'm sure she has no clue she just did that.)

In fact, a whole bunch of us have been attacked for years, for showing the pictures of McCain with the "rebel" command. We were premature anti-headchoppers.

And don’t you think it should be a bigger story that the Turkish-backed general ordering Syrian rebels into battle against the Kurds right now was the U.S.-backed general who ordered Syrian rebels into battle against Bashar Assad in 2013?

Then there’s Lt. Seyf Ebu Bekir, a defector from Assad’s military and suspected former ISIS fighter. He heads up the Hamza Division of rebel fighters that was vetted by the Pentagon in 2016 and then armed and trained by the U.S. to battle against ISIS. Today, the Hamza Division is one of the key groups killing and expelling Kurds as part of the Turkish offensive in Syria. So too is the Sultan Murad Division, which in 2015 was boasting about being “well stocked” with new supplies of U.S.-made TOW anti-tank missiles.

In fact, according to a damning analysis by SETA, a pro-government Turkish think tank, of the 41 armed factions which make up the now Turkish-backed SNA, 28 of them were formed before the Trump administration cut off aid to the Syrian rebels in 2017. “Out of the 28 factions,” concludes SETA, “21 were previously supported by the United States, three of them via the Pentagon’s program to combat DAESH. Eighteen of these factions were supplied by the CIA. … Fourteen factions of the 28 were also recipients of the U.S.-supplied TOW anti-tank guided missiles.”

Shouldn’t this be a source of huge controversy in Washington? Shouldn’t those politicians and pundits who backed the arming and funding of the same Syrian proxies now accused of committing war crimes be asked to explain themselves, rather than invited back on air as disinterested analysts or experts?


"Your call is important. Washington is busy right now. We will get right back to your concern after this impeachment, election, and the next couple of wars. Thank you."

Yes, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has blood on his hands and so too does Donald Trump, who gave Erdogan the green light to attack and “clean out” Kurdish-controlled areas. But what of the blood on the hands of those U.S. hawks and interventionists, both Republicans and Democrats, who threw their support behind the likes of Idris, Ebu Bakir, the Hamza Division, and the Sultan Murad Brigade only a few years ago?

Yes, the brutal Assad is responsible for the bulk of the violence in Syria — as are the governments of Iran and Russia that armed and backed him. But those responsible for arming and backing some of Syria’s most thuggish rebel groups include — among many others — the government of the United States. Some of us warned that the U.S. providing money and weapons to such rebels would backfire. We were smeared as genocide apologists, Assad stooges, Iran supporters. And yet what we are seeing on the ground in northeastern Syria today is a classic — and depressing — case of what the CIA has called “blowback.”

The former allies of the United States in Syria have turned on the current allies of the United States in Syria. And no one seems to want to admit this — or take any responsibility for it.
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Re: The Syria Thread 2011 - Present

Postby PufPuf93 » Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:12 am

Who exactly is operating these Syrian oil fields that Trump and Espers say we will protect??

How is the oil being transported and who are the buyers?

What banks and other corporations are involved?
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