(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)
On our way to Qamishli, the largest Kurdish city in northern Syria, we see a US military convoy escorted by fighter jets heading east towards the Iraqi border. They are leaving the Kurdish region.
The first time I saw an American in Syria was in 2016. He was part of US special forces, sent to support the Kurds fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Locals were excited to see them arriving.
But it was in stark contrast this time around. Now you could see the fear and anxiety in the faces of onlookers.
We were only a few kilometers from the Turkish border as one of the jets circled overhead, leaving a trail of white smoke as it passed in and out of Turkish airspace.
One of our guides sighed. “Trump bi namoose,” he said to me in Kurdish. “Trump has no honor.”
The Kurds have every reason to be worried. On one side they face neighboring Turkey, on the other, Syrian government forces.
Now the US is leaving, Kurds here are convinced they have no friends other than the mountains they inhabit.
From the moment we arrived in Qamishli, ordinary Kurds from baker to waiter asked, “why did Trump sell us out?” This is a traditional society that prides itself on a code of honour and does not understand why it has effectively been cut loose.
“America stabbed us in the back… Trump sold us… we were betrayed,” we heard, again and again.
Qamishli ‘s squares and electricity poles are decorated with the pictures of the fallen – men and women killed in the war against IS.
Every day there are funerals somewhere in this tiny region. It has been this way since IS attacked the Kurds in 2014. But now the victims are those who have been killed since Turkish and allied forces launched their cross-border attack earlier this month.
At the funerals, many mourners hide their tears. Instead they lead the caskets to graveyards with dances and chants.
At one such ceremony, for a fallen fighter of the Kurdish YPG, a tall man in his 60’s approaches me and calmly says: “Erdogan doesn’t like the Kurds. He wants us to leave,” referring to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the YPG as terrorists.
The Kurds lost 11,000 men and women battling against IS. “The fight wasn’t ours only, we fought on behalf of humanity,” the man says. “Where is the international community? Why don’t they stop Erdogan?”
In a bakery sits a pile of bread, baked for fighters on the front line. Bahouz, a 16-year-old boy who is cutting dough, asks me my opinion of Americans and Europeans.
“Do you think they will stop Erdogan from massacring us?” An older boy shouts: “Trump sold us – oil is more important than our lives.”
The young boys are clearly frightened. They know if the pro-Turkish Islamist militias arrive here, they would be prime targets. Already videos have emerged apparently showing Turkish-backed militias shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting handcuffed young men just like them.
At a hospital treating wounded YPG fighters, a doctor, Rojda, runs from one operating theatre to another. Rojda, a petite woman in her 30s, is also the director of the facility.
“What’s the point of filming?” she asks wearily. “Don’t waste your time. The world has closed its eyes on us.”
One of the patients I meet there is 23-year-old Jiyan. She sits on her bed, staring into the distance. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her head has been surgically pinned, her skull fractured; a hand and both legs are injured.
She laughs derisively. “I survived fighting IS in Kobane, Manbij, and Raqqa, but it was the Turks who almost killed me!”
Jiyan was in Ras al-Ain when Turkey attacked the border town. Her unit came under extensive Turkish artillery and bombardment.
“We put up a good fight against Turkish-backed thugs, but we couldn’t match Turkish firepower,” she tells me, adding: “I lost many friends.”
On our way out of Syria, I meet Kino Gabriel, spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led alliance of militias.
A tall man with a big smile, he is the founder of the Christian Syriac Military Council, part of the SDF. He avoids criticising President Trump, hoping, it seems, that the US will change course and come back to the SDF’s aid.
“Those jihadists backed by Turkey are not only coming for our land, they see us as infidels. They are coming for us,” he says.
As US troops withdrew from Qamishli last week on Donald Trump’s orders, one picture in particular – of a US soldier in his armoured vehicle wearing YPJ (the Kurdish women’s fighting force) insignia on his sleeve – resonated with the Kurdish allies they were leaving in haste.
“The American soldiers are just like us – shocked and disappointed with this political decision,” Kino Gabriel says. “But it is not their fault. We honour their sacrifices too.”
David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.
Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. Beginning on a positive note, we should celebrate the fact that the Dodgers will avoid losing three World Series in a row. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
Last Friday, the Kurds in northern Syria went to bed after yet another day existing precariously between warring factions that would brutalize them were it not for the skeletal presence of U.S. forces. On Monday, the Kurds faced a military incursion from Turkish forces and a renewed threat from Islamic State made possible by a sudden American withdrawal. What happened?
This is one of those rare cases in which a president like Donald Trump can have immediate, deadly and long-lasting consequences, thanks to both the vast powers vested in the position of commander in chief and the malignant incompetence of the person holding it.
President Trump deserves blame for mishandling a number of issues, but a problem like the trade war with China was preceded by a generation of economic duplicitousness by Beijing. Trump’s sudden withdrawal from parts of northern Syria, however, has all the fingerprints of his particular unfitness for the job: his impulsiveness, his purely transactional approach to foreign policy (remember, they “didn’t help us with Normandy”), his affinity for autocrats like Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his supreme confidence in his own “great and unmatched wisdom.”
This is what happens when we let Trump be Trump — or as the L.A. Times Editorial Board put it in a scathing piece: “This episode is a reminder that, whether or not Congress concludes that Trump committed ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ deserving of impeachment, he is operatically incompetent in discharging the duties of the presidency.”
Trump will only get more Trumpy. Virginia Heffernan writes that the the unconstitutional refusal by the president’s counsel to cooperate in the House impeachment inquiry is bad enough, but it pales in comparison to what Trump himself is doing: “To see a panicky president endanger our national security while he showers Erdogan and Putin with gifts is to see a leader over the edge. He has no intention of even pausing his traitorous crime spree on the way to impeachment.” L.A. Times
It’s (probably) safe to eat red meat again, but not because of some recent breakthrough in raising livestock. In fact, the food’s stayed the same, but the way some scientists are looking at the evidence has changed. Nina Teicholz writes that the latest flip-flop on red meat — clarification that, in fact, eating it has not been shown to be associated with a higher heart disease or cancer risk — uses the best science in place of scientists’ best guesses. L.A. Times
Want someone to blame for blackouts? Look in the mirror. Besieged utility Pacific Gas and Electric is getting plenty of deserved flak for its preemptive power outages in Northern California during high winds. But wind-driven wildfires sparked by malfunctioning electrical lines would be killing fewer people and destroying less property if so many Californians weren’t living in high-risk areas. L.A. Times
Trump is creating the worst constitutional crisis in 150 years. The term “constitutional crisis” gets thrown around too often, and it really does not have any legal significance. It is used properly to describe a breakdown in the constitutional order, something that has happened only a few times in U.S. history, most significantly before the Civil War. And Trump, by refusing to recognize the House’s sole power of impeachment as afforded in the Constitution instead of simply making his case to the American people, has touched off that kind of crisis. L.A. Times
Everyone made money off her athleticism — except the athlete. UCLA’s Katelyn Ohashi is one of the most celebrated college gymnasts ever; clips of her perfect-10 floor routine have gone viral. Problem is, the only participant in her fame who didn’t make any money from it was Ohashi. She explains why she believes that’s wrong, and why she supports California’s new law that will allow students to be compensated for their athleticism. New York Times
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Turkey launched airstrikes, fired artillery aimed at crushing Kurdish fighters in northern Syria on Wednesday after U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for an assault on forces that have long been allied with the United States. (Oct. 9) AP, AP
WASHINGTON – Two days before President Trump announced that he would pull U.S. military back from the border zone in Syria, Americans and their Kurdish allies had removed senior ISIS fighters from the battlefield, according to a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak publicly.
The capture of the two fighters occurred as part of daily regular commando raids U.S. forces had been running with Kurdish soldiers, the official said.
Trump’s abandonment of Kurdish allies fighting ISIS has shocked members of the U.S. military and left it scrambling to protect American forces in Syria – and to look on as those they worked with side by side only a few days ago are now under attack as Turkey’s military continues to step up assaults on the region.
Thursday marked the second day of Turkey’s assault on Kurdish forces in the region. Turkey launched the assault because it views a Kurdish militia that dominates the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group.
Earlier this week, Trump said he was delivering on a campaign promise to remove U.S. troops from “ridiculous endless wars.” Trump also defended his decision on Wednesday to end U.S. support for the Kurds, saying they had failed to fight with Americans in World War II.
Donald Trump is defending his decision to withdraw US troops from Kurd-held areas in northern Syria. A move that led to Turkey launching a military operation on Wednesday. Trump says he “campaigned on ending the endless wars.” (Oct. 9) AP, AP
Casualties reported: Turkish strikes hit civilians as Syria offensive intensifies
The Pentagon has issued few statements since Trump’s decision, blaming Turkey for acting unilaterally and calling for a “safe zone” to be established in northeastern Syria.
The Kurds formed the backbone of the counter-ISIS ground force, backed by the U.S.-led air war, that has retaken virtually all the land seized by Islamic State fighters since 2014. The Kurds have lost 11,000 troops in the fighting and have seen another 20,000 wounded. Their bloodshed and support has led to a kinship understood by many U.S. troops who view the U.S. withdrawal of support as a betrayal of a dedicated ally, the official said.
Who are the Kurds?: A Middle Eastern people with ‘no friends but the mountains’
“None of our allies can trust us anymore,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview. “The biggest loss here apart from the slaughter of innocent and loyal fighters on our side is the shattering of trust. The loss of our word as a bond. No one can rely on the United States if we abandon our fiercest most loyal allies who have literally shed blood for us.”
Trump’s decision has led to ad hoc measures to protect U.S. troops and attempts to mitigate losses to ISIS, the official said. Among them:
U.S. forces are safe, the official said, and the 50 troops relocated to outposts represent a fraction of the 1,000 remaining in Syria.
‘A reckless gamble’: Four reasons critics decry Trump’s ‘impulsive’ Syria withdrawal
Turkey launched the assault because it regards a Kurdish militia within the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, as a terrorist group. About 30,000 Kurdish fighters and civilians have been displaced by Turkey’s offensive.
Turkey is expected to turn over the fighting to local forces it backs, the official said. A second U.S. official said Turkey, a NATO ally, has been cut off from receiving U.S. intelligence on the region.
The Syrian Observatory for Human rights estimates that 16 SDF fighters have been killed and dozens wounded. Erdogan has said “109 terrorists” have been killed. The U.S. official cautioned that both sides may be exaggerating losses or gains for propaganda purposes.
I know that there are a lot of people who don’t even know who the Kurdish people are and that is a shame because they have been a Ally to the U.S. military for decades now. They have fought along side our troops in Syria for years now helping us to defang ISIS and other terrorists in that region. The Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group of people in the whole world that does not have a country of their own. The eastern population of Turkey has a huge percent of Kurdish people within their borders as well as in N.W. Syria, Northern Iraq and N.W. Iran. We have armed and trained the Kurd people for many years now but now that ISIS is supposedly defunct in Syria President Trump has turned his/our back on these people again but even worse this time.
Turkey’s President Erdogan has been trying to commit genocide of the Kurdish people every since he took office. Now, with the help of Iran and Trumps good friend President Putin of Russia President Erdogan has his military set up 20 miles deep into Syria (against the Syrian governments wishes) for the purpose of killing the Kurd’s. This Turk military action is also against the wishes of President Trump’s other good friend the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia MBS. The only reason that I can think of why President Trump would commit treason against the Kurdish people is because of his butt buddy Putin asking him too. For President Trump to agree with this Genocide of the Kurdish people is beneath the dignity of a snakes belly but then again this plays all to true for this President.
The Turkish Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EPDK) announced Tuesday raising consumer electricity prices by 14.9 percent, knowing that the prices witnessed an equal raise in July.
After the new increase, users would pay starting October TRY71.22 (around USD14) for 100 kilowatt-hours. EPDK said, in a statement, that a key factor for increasing prices was the Electricity Distribution Co. changing its wholesale prices with the unit-cost of electricity inching up to 35 kurus.
The new move caused a withering criticism of the government on social media, with citizens expressing anger expressed anger at the power price rises which would increase burdens on Turkish households.
Earlier, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development issued a report pointing out that the electricity prices in Turkey rose by 307 percent since 2003, when the government of Justice and Development Party became in charge under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Last August, the government imposed a new increase in natural gas prices for the fourth time in less than one year by 15 percent for houses and 14 percent for industrial usage.
Economists criticized the new roadmap to implement the economic program, adding that the three goals announced by Turkish Finance Minister Berat Albayrak are “unrealistic”.
Albayrak laid out on Monday Turkey’s targets in the New Economic Program (NEP) covering the 2020-2022 period. He stated that they trimmed the inflation forecast for the end of this year to 12 percent, from the current year’s predictions of 15.1 percent, and to 8.5 percent for 2020, 6 percent in 2021 and 4.9 percent in 2022.
“Growth in 2019 will be 0.5 percent…After closing 2019 with an unemployment rate of 12.9 percent, we aim to reduce the figure to 11.8 percent next year, 10.6 percent in 2021 and 9.8 percent in 2022,” the minister said.
Economist Ugur Gurses commented on Albayrak’s roadmap, saying that he presented it to persuade his father-in-law (Erdogan) and not the people. The official target of growth is 5 percent by 2022 but the presented target for inflation is 12 percent for 2019, 8.5 percent, 6 percent and 4.9 percent for the three coming years respectively.
Former Turkish Central Bank Governor Durmus Yilmaz said that the budget deficit estimates in 2020-2022 of 2.9, 2.5, and 1.5 percent are based on taxes collection, which in their turn will be provided by an anticipated growth of 5 percent in the coming three years.
“We have not achieved any of the results we desired in the east of the Euphrates. Turkey cannot lose even a single day on this issue. There is no other choice but to act on our own,” Erdogan said at the parliament’s opening ceremony in Ankara.
“We plan to settle two million people in the safe zones we will establish. We calculated the costs and we will carry out efforts to improve. We will start taking steps as soon as the region is saved from the invasion of terror,” he said.
Erdogan told the United Nations last week he wanted to set up the zone along 480 km of border and reaching 30 km inside Syria. Under the Turkish plan, up to 2 million Syrian refugees would be settled in the safe zone, with international support.
If implemented, the project could halve the number of Syrian refugees sheltering in Turkey from Syria’s eight-year conflict, and drive the Syrian Kurdish YPG – which Ankara says is a terrorist group threatening its security – from the border, Reuters said.
While diplomats, analysts and Turkey’s main opposition say Ankara would be unwilling to anger Washington with a military incursion as the allies try to repair strained ties, Erdogan’s comments on Tuesday marked the clearest indication of an offensive in the region.
He added that Turkey aimed to host an “international donors meeting” to get funding for its plans in the area, which he said would stretch from the Euphrates river in Syria east to the Iraqi border.
Erdogan has repeatedly called on Turkey’s allies to provide financial support for the plans, including in his speech at the United Nations last month. But Ankara is unlikely to receive a response for any plan that settles people hundreds of kilometers from their homes and alters the demographics of northeast Syria.
The United States agreed to the safe zone as a way to protect its Kurdish allies in Syria and address Turkish concerns about the border, after President Donald Trump announced plans last year to abruptly withdraw 2,000 US special forces troops that helped Kurdish fighters battle ISIS.
But the US troops have yet to leave and Washington and Ankara have so far failed to agree on details. Turkey has accused the United States of dragging its feet and warned that it would take matters into its own hands.
Turkey has already launched two military incursions into northern Syria in the last three years and has stationed troops into the opposition-held Idlib region. It says preparations for another operation are complete.
“It is impossible for us to cancel relations with Iran with regards to oil and natural gas. We will continue to buy our natural gas from there,” Erdogan told Turkish reporters before leaving New York where he was attending the UN General Assembly.
Despite this vow, Erdogan admitted Turkey faced difficulty in purchasing oil since the private sector “pulled back because of US threats”, NTV broadcaster reported.
“But on this issue especially and many other issues, we will continue our relations with Iran,” he promised, adding that Ankara still sought to increase trade volume with Tehran.
The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal, and says it aims to reduce Tehran’s energy sales to zero.
Erdogan previously criticized the sanctions, insisting that they achieved nothing.
NTV also quoted the Turkish president as saying that preparations by Ankara and Washington on a safe zone for refugees in northeastern Syria are on schedule.
“The schedule is moving along, all our preparations along the border are also complete.”
“Upon returning (to Turkey), we will hold evaluations … on what sort of steps to take and implement them … because Turkey is not a country that can be stalled,” he said.
Turkey and the US started joint land and air patrols along part of Syria’s border with Turkey. Ankara wants Washington to clear the Syrian Kurdish YPG from a 480-km-long border area, and Erdogan warned that Turkey would act unilaterally if the group was not removed.
The statement, released on Wednesday by Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, Ahmed Hafez, said that Erdogan was supporting terrorism, arming extremists and deliberately targeting the Kurds.
It also listed human rights violations in Turkey under Erdogan’s leadership, including thousands held as political prisoners, the suspicious deaths of dozens of detainees due to torture or inhuman prison conditions, and the closure of thousands of universities and educational institutions.
Hafez said that Erdogan “claimed to defend the values of justice in his speech, but at the core showed feelings of hatred and spite toward Egypt and its people who have nothing but appreciation for the people of Turkey.”
His remarks came in response to Erdogan’s speech during the UN General Assembly meetings, in which he raised doubts on Mohammed Morsi’s death in court last June.
Cairo and Ankara have reduced their diplomatic relations since 2013 because of the Turkish president’s position against the June 30 Revolution that toppled the rule of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, after widespread public protests against his continued rule. In the wake of a number of statements that Egypt considered “hostile”, Cairo decided to withdraw its ambassador from Ankara and expel the Turkish ambassador.
Hafez emphasized that Erdogan’s statements were a “desperate attempt to steer attention away from his deteriorating regime and the successive losses he is suffering.
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