Monday, October 7, 2019

Last Call For The Coming Kurdish Catastrophe

Turkish build-up along the border with Syria has been growing for months now, and a few weeks ago our Syrian Kurdish allies made it known that they were very nervous.

Despite the creation of a security zone on the border between Turkey and northeast Syria that has defused some tension in recent weeks, Syrian Kurds still fear the movement of Turkish ground and aerial forces in their backyard could be a prelude to an assault on the country’s Kurdish minority population. 
“If they can, they will go to Damascus,” said Ilham Ahmed, a co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council, the political arm of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are responsible for liberating northeastern Syria from the Islamic State, told Foreign Policy through an interpreter in a recent interview in Washington. 
The debate over the area—which U.S. officials have labeled a “security mechanism” rather than a safe zone—is deeply personal for Ahmed, who grew up in the northwest Syrian town of Afrin. The Turks and their proxy forces swept into Afrin last year, waging a violent campaign on the Kurdish-controlled town. Ahmed’s entire family was forced to flee and now lives in tents outside the city, she said. 
U.S. support to the Syrian Kurds has been a major source of tension between Ankara and Washington since the U.S. military began arming the group in 2014. The military arm of the SDF is led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia that Ankara views as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK. Both Turkey and the United States have designated the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey, a terrorist group.
Ankara has been pushing for a Turkish-controlled “safe zone” on the border for months as a necessary measure to address its security concerns. U.S. President Donald Trump even promised a 20-mile safe zone in a January tweet, which officials later walked back. But the Syrian Kurds fear a Turkish assault on the area’s civilian population, which Ahmed has said could be a “catastrophe” for her people.

Since the security mechanism—which involves joint U.S. and Turkish ground and aerial patrols between the Syrian border towns of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ain—was established earlier this month, Ahmed said the SDF has kept to its side of the bargain. YPG fighters have surrendered the area to local security forces, removed fortifications and tunnels on the border, and withdrawn heavy weapons such as tanks and artillery by 12 miles.

But the presence of Turkish troops and military equipment on the border is still a threat, Ahmed said. The Kurds are particularly concerned about Turkish surveillance drones operating in the area as part of the joint patrols, she noted.

“Unless the border goes back to normality, where things on the border are normal with no troops on the two sides, then we cannot say that the problem is solved,” she said. 
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threat to resettle 3 million Syrian refugees currently residing in Turkey into the safe zone is also “troubling,” Ahmed said. Most of the refugees in Turkey are not native to northeast Syria, and their presence there could displace the Kurdish residents in that area, she added. 
“Every day, there is escalation from Turkey and threats,” she said. 
U.S. defense and military officials expressed cautious optimism that an uneasy peace between the Turks and the Kurds can be maintained. But experts say continued U.S. presence on the ground as a “credible interlocutor” will be key to assuring both sides.

Over the weekend, Turkish President Erdogan upped the threats considerably.

Turkey’s president, in his strongest warning yet, threatened Saturday to launch a military operation into northeastern Syria, where U.S. troops are deployed and have been trying to defuse tensions between Washington’s two allies — Turkey and the Syrian Kurds. 
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s threats were a warning that a U.S.-Turkish deal to secure Syria’s troubled border with Turkey was faltering. He said a Turkish military operation against the U.S-backed Kurdish forces could begin “maybe today, maybe tomorrow.” 
The Turkish military has been dispatching units and defense equipment to southeastern Sanliurfa province in the past month. Erdogan had expressed frustration, threatening a unilateral operation, but this was his most specific threat amid concerns from the Syrian Kurdish forces of a limited military operation. 
“We have given all kinds of warning regarding the (area) east of the Euphrates to the relevant parties. We have acted with enough patience,” Erdogan said. 
A Turkish military operation, however limited, would put major pressure on the more 1,000 U.S. troops in northeastern Syria and who operate closely with the Kurdish-led forces, whether to implement the security mechanism or in fighting IS. 
The Turkish leader has repeatedly expressed frustration with Washington’s support for Kurdish groups in Syria. His threats continued despite a deal reached with Washington in August to carry out joint patrols and move Syrian Kurdish fighters away from the border. 

Last night, the Trump regime issued a response to this that cannot be categorized as anything other than an invitation to Turkey to begin the wholesale slaughter of Syrian Kurds.

The White House said Sunday that Turkey will soon invade Northern Syria, renewing fears of a slaughter of Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. in a yearslong campaign against the Islamic State group
For months, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been threatening to launch a military assault on the Kurdish forces in Northern Syria, many of whom his government considers terrorists. The Kurdish forces bore the brunt of the U.S.-led campaign against Islamic State militants, and Republicans and Democrats have warned that allowing the Turkish attack would send a troubling message to American allies across the globe. 
U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area,” in Northern Syria, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an unusual late-Sunday statement that was silent on the fate of the Kurds. 
It was not clear whether that meant the U.S. would be withdrawing its 1,000 or so troops completely from northern Syria. 
The announcement came after a call between President Donald Trump and Erdogan, the White House said.

Donald Trump just sold out Syrian Kurds to Erdogan, Assad, and Putin.  And today that price came in blood.

Turkish forces carried out attacks against Kurdish forces and the anti-Assad Syrian Democratic Forces militia in Syria and Iraq near the Turkish border on Monday evening. 
Turkish forces attacked SDF positions in the city of al-Malikiyah in the Hasakah area in northern Syria, according to Syrian state news agency SANA. 
The SDF includes Kurds and others in eastern Syria which the US has helped train, assist and advise during the war on ISIS. 
Earlier on Monday, the United States announced that it would be withdrawing from Syria. 
Turkey will move forward with its long-planned military operation to create what it calls a "safe zone" in northern Syria and U.S. forces will not support or be involved in it, the White House press secretary announced early Monday morning. 
"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial 'Caliphate,' will no longer be in the immediate area," said the White House press secretary on Monday morning. 
The SDF withdrew from an oil field in the Deir ez-Zor area and headed towards the Turkish border on Monday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The SDF lead protests against Iranian-backed militias in the Deir ez-Zor area in September.

Not only has Donald Trump created a hot war as a distraction to help himself, he's done it by betraying US Kurdish allies.  Again.

It will be a lifetime before anyone trusts the US again.

Two Murders And Five To Ten

Last week, former Dallas PD officer Amber Guyger got ten years for the murder of Botham Jean, an unarmed black man who was killed by Guyger when she went into the wrong apartment, thinking it was hers after a shift, and she shot him dead on the couch.  

A conviction was surprising enough, the ten year sentence for murder shouldn't shock anyone a fraction of the time other convicted murderers got in the state of Texas.  Still, people don't convict cops without overwhelming evidence, and that's still no guarantee.

Part of the evidence against Guyger was provided by the testimony of Joshua Brown, Botham Jean's neighbor from across the hall.  On Friday night, Brown was found dead from multiple gunshots in the parking lot of his new apartment complex.

Authorities say that, on Friday, Dallas police were called to Brown’s new apartment complex, about five miles from where Jean was murdered, at about 10:30 pm local time, where they found Brown lying in the parking lot with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead from his injuries.
Throughout the murder trial against Guyger, Brown testified, sometimes emotionally, about the moments when he heard gunshots ring out as he approached his apartment, and about Guyger’s behavior immediately after she killed Jean on September 6, 2018. Guyger has said she believed the apartment was her own, and that she mistook Jean for an intruder.

Brown said that he saw Guyger enter the hallway from Jean’s apartment, crying, and speaking on the phone. Attorney Lee Merritt, who represented the Jean family in the trial, wrote on Facebook that Brown’s testimony played a key role in challenging Guyger’s account of the incident and her claims that she had shouted commands at Botham before shooting him.
“She didn’t. No one heard that. No neighbors. No passerby’s. Not Joshua as he walked down the corridor. No one,” Merritt wrote.

Dallas police officials have not yet identified Brown as the victim of Friday’s shooting, but his mother confirmed his death through Merritt. Officials have also not yet identified a suspect or potential motive, and autopsy details have not yet been released. Witnesses have said that a four-door sedan was seen speeding away from the scene of the shooting.

On social media, Merritt, the attorney, called for answers.

Brown deserves the same justice he sought to ensure the Jean family,” Merritt wrote. “The Dallas County criminal justice system must [be] mobilized to identify his killer and see that he is held accountable for this murder.

There are unsubstantiated rumors that Brown was shot in the mouth, which would be a clear message killing that Brown was gunned down because he dared to testify against a white female cop in Texas, a modern lynching.  Even if he wasn't shot in the mouth however, a dead black witness in a trial where a cop was convicted based in no small part on the testimony of that witness is still a clear message of fear and hatred.

If you are black in America like me, this is a stark reminder that you draw breath only because the police haven't decided to take your life.

Not-So-Slick Rick, Con't

The completely applicable adage of "The Trump Regime is always actually doing what they accuse Democrats of doing" is an adage not necessarily because it was was Nazi propagandist Joeseph Goebbels most cynical and effective tactic, but because Trump regime folks simply lack the imagination to come up with anything creative other than "Well, what illegal things are we up to?"

As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On Friday, according to the news site Axios, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelenskiy for a “favor” regarding Biden. Axios cited a source saying Trump said Perry had asked Trump to make the call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”

While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, was not advancing anyone’s personal interests. She said his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country’s energy sector and create an environment where Western companies can do business.

The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogazt, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine. For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.

So the mystery of Rick Perry's resignation is now quite clearly solved.  Following up on Saturday night's Last Call, we know that Perry was trying to get Americans on the board of Ukraine's biggest natural gas company.

Among other changes, Perry pushed for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to expand its board to include Americans, two people familiar with the matter said. Two long-time energy executives based in Perry’s home state of Texas were among those under consideration for that role, one source familiar with the administration’s dealings with the company said.

Perry was in deep on the whole Ukraine mess, hence his sudden resignation last week.  Do read the entire piece, Giuliani was in on it too, and the plan is laid out here in rich detail by AP's reporters, Desmond Butler, Mike Biesecker, and Rich Lardner.


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