Israel: Trump’s Golan recognition, ‘a Purim miracle’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israeli leaders gush over Trump’s Golan recognition, ‘a Purim miracle’

Syria silent as US president says time to ‘fully recognize Israel’s sovereignty’ over plateau; Lapid claims some credit; Bennett fears new demands; Palestinians warn of ‘bloodshed’

Photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows an Israeli flag fluttering above the wreckage of an Israeli tank sitting on a hill in the Golan Heights and overlooking the border with Syria. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Photo taken on October 18, 2017 shows an Israeli flag fluttering above the wreckage of an Israeli tank sitting on a hill in the Golan Heights and overlooking the border with Syria. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Israel’s leaders on Thursday welcomed US President Donald Trump’s announcement that the time had come for the United States to “fully recognize” Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, while the Palestinians warned the move would further destabilize the region and lead to bloodshed.

“After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” Trump tweeted.

There was no immediate reaction from Syria, which has long vowed to recover every inch of the Golan from Israel.

In Israel the move won widespread praise, but coming just weeks before Israel’s elections, much of the reaction was framed by the campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the praise of Trump, calling the move a “new Purim miracle.”

Speaking at a press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu said Trump had “made history.”

“I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel. He did it again. First, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy here. Then, he pulled out of the disastrous Iran treaty and re-imposed sanctions.

“But now he did something of equal historic importance — he recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and he did so at a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to attack and destroy Israel. And the message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) welcomes US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to his residence in Jerusalem on March 21, 2019. (Photo by JIM YOUNG / POOL / AFP)

“We’re celebrating Purim, when 2,500 years ago, other Persians, led by Haman, tried to destroy the Jewish people. They failed then; and today, 2,500 years later, again Persians led by Khamenei, are trying to destroy the Jewish people and the Jewish state. They’re going to fail again,” Netanyahu said.

Pompeo praised Trump as well, and added: “The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought and the lives they lost on that very ground [the Golan] were important and worthy.” Israel captured the Heights from Syria in the 1967 war.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the move would strengthen Israel’s security.

“This is the right response to Iran’s aggression from Syria and a clear message to Assad. Trump’s statement does historical justice almost 40 years after the decision of Menachem Begin on Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan. Thank you, Mr. President,” he said.

The Jewish community of Qatzrin in the Golan Heights, on June 28, 2017. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

Members of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party were quick to praise the prime minister for the shift in US policy.

“President’s Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan is another achievement for Netanyahu’s foreign policy,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. “This term will be remembered in history as one where Netanyahu changed the rules of the game and brought about maximum Israeli gains with zero concessions.”

Yair Lapid, a leader of the Blue and White party that is seen as a main challenger to Netanyahu in the upcoming elections, praised Trump, but also tried to claim credit for the initiative.

“Thank you @POTUS for your intention to recognize our sovereignty over the Golan,” he tweeted. “We started this campaign a year ago and the leadership of @BlueWhite2019 stood on the Golan Heights and called for recognition. President Trump has shown again that he’s a true friend of Israel.”

יאיר לפיד Yair Lapid

@yairlapid

Thank you @POTUS for your intention to recognize our sovereignty over the Golan. We started this campaign a year ago and the leadership of @BlueWhite2019 stood on the Golan Heights and called for recognition. President Trump has shown again that he’s a true friend of Israel.

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Meanwhile, Education Minister Naftali Bennett of the New Right party warned that Israel may be expected to make concessions with the Palestinians in exchange for the move.

“With all the joy of American recognition of the Golan Heights, it is essential to say: The ‘Golan in exchange for Hamastan’ deal is a danger to Jewish settlements and to Israel.

“We call upon Prime Minister Netanyahu to announce as early as this evening that his agreement to the establishment of Palestine in the Bar-Ilan speech is null and void,” Bennet said referring to a 2009 speech where Netanyahu laid out his acceptance of the two-state solution.

This was echoed by the far-right Union of Right-Wing Parties, which thanked Trump, but warned the Israeli public not to let the move blind them to the dangers of Trump’s expected peace plan.

Details of the plan have not yet been released, but URWP, a union of the Jewish Home, National Union and extremist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), warned that it would demand Israeli concessions in the West Bank.

“Only a government with the Union of Right-Wing Parties will stand firm,” it said.

Head of the Golan Heights Regional Council Haim Rokah said it was “about time” and called on Israel to increase funding and investment for the region “and double the population.”

However, lawmakers from the mostly Arab Hadash party accused Trump of timing the announcement to try to influence the election and get Netanyahu re-elected — an assertion Pompeo denied.

“Trump is trying to save Netanyahu from his desperate situation and return him to power,” said MK Aida Touma-Sliman.

Touma-Sliman called the recognition part of “the entrenchment of Israeli and American control over the Middle East and a targeted assassination of the … opposition in the Golan by thousands of Syrian citizens, who are standing firm against all attempts at Israelization and normalization” — a reference to the Golan’s Druze population.

Hadash leader Ayman Odeh called the move a “cheap and cynical provocation.”

“Decisions on the Middle East should not be unilateral, and certainly not announced over Twitter,” he said, warning that it would further destabilize the region.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and extended Israeli law to the territory in 1981, a step tantamount to annexation. But the United States and the international community have long considered it Syrian territory under Israeli occupation. The plateau lies along a strategic area on the border between Israel and Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad as members of the Druze community attend a rally in the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights commemorating the 45th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, on October 6, 2018. (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP)

A top Palestinian official warned that this was yet another move by the Trump administration to adopt Israel’s positions and warned it would lead to further instability in the region.

“Yesterday president Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Today for regional stability he wants to make sure that the occupied Syrian Golan Heights (sic) be under Israel’s sovereignty,” tweeted Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee.

“What shall tomorrow bring ? Certain destabilization and bloodshed in our region,” he said.

Dr. Saeb Erakat الدكتور صائب عريقات@ErakatSaeb

Yesterday president Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s http://capital.Today  for regional stability he wants to make sure that the occupied Syrian Golan Heights be under Israel’s sovereignty. What shall tomorrow bring ? Certain destabilization and bloodshed in our region.

Israel Said Set To Seek $250b Compensation From Arab Countries Plus Iran

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Israel said set to seek $250b compensation for Jews forced out of Arab countries

After 18 months of research, first claims being finalized for reported $35b from Tunisia, $15b from Libya, for assets Jews left behind when kicked out after establishment of Israel

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Jews of Aden, Yemen, awaiting evacuation to Israel on November 1, 1949. (GPO/Public domain)

Israel is preparing to demand compensation totaling a reported $250 billion from seven Arab countries and Iran for property and assets left behind by Jews who were forced to flee those countries following the establishment of the State of Israel.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” Israel’s Minister for Social Equality, Gila Gamliel, who is coordinating the Israeli government’s handling of the issue, said Saturday.

According to figures cited Saturday night by Israel’s Hadashot TV news, compensation demands are now being finalized with regards to the first two of the eight countries involved, with Israel set to seek $35 billion dollars in compensation for lost Jewish assets from Tunisia, and $15 billion dollars from Libya.

In total, the TV report said Israel will seek over $250 billion from those two countries plus Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Iran.

Yemenite Jews walking to Aden, the site of a reception camp, ahead of their emigration to Israel, 1949. (Kluger Zoltan/Israeli National Photo Archive/public domain)

Justice for Jews from Arab Countries (JJAC), an international umbrella group of Jewish community organizations, has estimated that some 856,000 Jews from 10 Arab countries — the other two were Algeria and Lebanon — fled or were expelled in 1948 and after, while violent Arab riots left many Jews dead or injured.

For the past 18 months, utilizing the services of an international accountancy firm, the Israeli government has quietly been researching the value of property and assets that these Jews were forced to leave behind, the TV report said.

Immigrants from Iraq soon after landing at Lod Airport, summer 1951 (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

It is now moving toward finalizing claims as the Trump Administration prepares for the possible unveiling of its much-anticipated Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal. A 2010 Israeli law provides that any peace deal must provide for compensation for assets of Jewish communities and individual Jews forced out of Arab countries and Iran.

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Yemeni Jews aboard a plane to Israel in operation Magic Carpet, 1949 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“One cannot talk about the Middle East without taking into consideration the rights of the Jews who were forced to leave their thriving communities amid violence,” said Gamliel, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“All the crimes that were carried out against those Jewish communities must be recognized.”

The Palestinian Authority has sought over $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left behind by Arab residents of what is today Israel who fled or were forced to leave at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state, and presented documentation to that effect to the United States a decade ago, the TV report said.

The Palestinians have also always demanded a “right of return” to what is today’s Israel for the few tens of thousands of surviving refugees and for their millions of descendants. This demand would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state and has been dismissed by successive Israeli governments. Israel argues that Palestinian refugees would become citizens of a Palestinian state under a permanent peace accord, just as Jewish refugees from Arab lands became citizens of Israel. It also argues that by extending refugee status to Palestinian descendants, the relevant UN agencies artificially inflate the issue, complicating peace efforts. The latter view is shared by the Trump administration, which last year announced it was halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA.

Israel has never formally demanded compensation for Jews forced out of Arab lands and Iran, and although many of those Jews arrived in Israel with next to nothing, they did not seek formal refugee status from the international community.

Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon giving the opening remarks at an official UN event commemorating Jewish refugees from Arab lands, on December 1, 2015. (Shahar Azran)

At the time, the newly established Jewish state was struggling to attract migration from the world’s Jews and to project its legitimacy as a sovereign state, able to care for its own people. Its first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, would not have wanted Jews returning to their “historic homeland” classed as refugees, according to Meir Kahlon, chairman of the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran.

Monies obtained from the eight countries would not be allocated to individual families, the TV report said, but would rather be distributed by the state via a special fund. Gamliel is coordinating the process, together with Israel’s National Security Council, which works out of the Prime Minister’s Office.

In 2014, Israel passed a law making each November 30 a day commemorating the exit and deportation of Jews from Arab and Iranian lands, which involves educational programming and diplomatic events aimed to increase international awareness of the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab lands and Iran, and of their right to compensation.

That year, at the first such events, Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin issued calls for financial reparations.

President Reuven Rivlin speaks at a ceremony marking the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. November 30, 2014. (photo credit: Courtesy)

“It is not for nothing that this day is marked on the day after the 29th of November,” Netanyahu said on November 30, 2014, in reference to the anniversary of the UN adoption of the Palestine partition plan in 1947. “The Arab countries, which never accepted the UN declaration on the establishment of a Jewish state, compelled the Jews living in their territories to leave their homes while leaving their assets behind… We have acted – and will continue to act – so that they and their claims are not forgotten.”

Read: The expulsion that backfired: When Iraq kicked out its Jews

In his address at that first ceremony, Rivlin appealed for greater Sephardic representation in Israeli society, as well as for compensation for their suffering. He acknowledged that the troubles of Middle Eastern Jews were not mitigated upon their arrival in Israel, where European Jews were firmly entrenched in power.

“Their voices were muted, but the words were in their mouths all along, even if they were said in Hebrew with a Persian or Arabic accent, which in Israel were thought of as enemy languages and viewed as a source of shame,” he said.

“The voice of Jews from Arab countries and Iran must be heard within the education system, in the media, in the arts, and in the country’s official institutions, as it needs to be heard in the international arena as well, in order to mend the historical injustice, and to ensure financial reparations,” Rivlin said.

Kahlon said that “nearly 800,000 came here (in the years after the establishment of the state) and the rest (around 56,000) went to the United States, France, Italy and elsewhere.”

Kahlon himself came to Israel as a child from Libya and spent his first years in the Jewish state in one of the tent camps set up to shelter the flood of newcomers.

Barber Rachamim Azar, a new immigrant from Baghdad, carries out his trade in the tent he shares with his wife and two children at a maabara (immigrant camp) in central Israel in summer 1951. He told a Government Press Office photographer that he intended to move to a kibbutz (Teddy Brauner, GPO)

In March 2014, Canada formally recognized the refugee status of the Jewish emigres who fled or were expelled from Arab countries after Israel’s founding.

Some of the migrants to Israel say privately that the issue is being promoted to give Israel a bargaining card in negotiations with the Palestinians, to set against Palestinian compensation claims for property and assets left behind in what is now Israel.

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Kremlin Denies Erdogan-Putin Meeting

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Kremlin Denies Erdogan-Putin Meeting

Wednesday, 26 December, 2018 – 11:30
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. AP
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday he would most probably meet with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin regarding US withdrawal from Syria, but Kremlin denied the meeting.

However, Erdogan did not disclose the timing of the meeting.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, for his part, said he will travel to Russia in the coming days to discuss the same issue, Reuters reported from CNN Turk, which quoted him as saying on Tuesday.

On Monday, Erdogan’s spokesman said Turkey would increase coordination with Russia in Syria following the US decision to withdraw.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin does not have immediate plans to meet with the Turkish leader.

Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Geneva office Gennady Gatilov announced in an interview with Izvestia on Tuesday that Turkey, which has long common borders with Syria, has certain reasons to respond to threats to its security, especially if those threats come from terrorist organizations.

“We believe that the Kurdish issue is a very sensitive subject of the entire political architecture in Syria.”

“Turkey’s activities in [Syria’s] north is a temporary phenomenon related to [Ankara’s] national security concerns and, first of all, terrorist threat,” Gatilov said when asked about Moscow’s assessment of Turkey’s steps.

Gatilov pointed to the fact that Turkey had expressed support for Syria’s territorial sovereignty and added that Russia had no reasons to doubt its plans.

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

 

Turkey: Pointless for France to Remain in Syria to Protect YPG

Wednesday, 26 December, 2018 – 10:45
French President Emmanuel Macron. (AFP)
London – Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey warned France that it is pointless to maintain its military presence in Syria to protect the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“If France is staying to contribute to Syria’s future, great, but if they are doing this to protect the (militia), this will bring no benefit to anyone,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters according to state news agency Anadolu.

Cavusoglu hit out at France’s “support” of the YPG, which he said was “no secret”, pointing to a meeting French President Emmanuel Macron had held on Friday with the Syrian Democratic Council, the political wing of the US-backed Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF).

The YPG serves as the military backbone of the SDF.

Turkey views the YPG as terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

France is part of the international anti-terrorism coalition led by the US in Syria and Iraq. It dispatched military pilots and artillery soldiers to carry out bombings. Several sources also reported the deployment of French special forces in Syrian territory, but Paris has not confirmed this information.

Last week, US President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of 2,000 US ground forces that had been in Syria to provide training to the YPG under the SDF.

The shock move put allies on the backfoot, with Macron on Sunday saying: “An ally must be reliable”.

On Sunday, Macron avoided commenting on the demands made by two representatives of the “Syrian Democratic Council” after Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria.

He summed up by the situation by announcing Paris “regrets” the US decision, given that the mission to terminate ISIS was not over yet, adding that the SDF should not be abandoned and allies should not be “left in the middle of the road.”

France confirmed it will remain in the alliance despite the US withdrawal.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Ankara will intervene in the coming months against ISIS and the YPG.

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

(Peace, no peace, ever, there is to much inbred hate and distrust on all three sides, Sunni, Shiite and Judaism,  but thats just my thought on this issue.) (oldpoet56)  

Israel fires at missile from Syria; IDF jets said to pound Damascus arms depots

No injuries or damage in Israel; Israeli planes said to be behind attack near Syrian capital against Hezbollah or Iranian depot; Damascus claims to shoot down ‘enemy targets’

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

A screenshot from video purporting to show a Syrian surface-to-air missile being fired near Damascus on December 25, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

Israel said Tuesday night it had deployed its air defenses against a missile shot from Syria as Damascus attempted to repel an alleged Israeli airstrike against Hezbollah or Iranian targets near the capital.

The Israel Defense Forces said there was no damage or injuries from the surface-to-air missile fired from Syria at Israel.

“An IDF aerial defense system activated in response to an anti-aircraft missile launched from Syria,” the army said in a statement.

It did not say where or even if the missile was successfully intercepted.

Pictures shared on social media showed an air defense missile being fired near Hadera, a city some 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the Syrian border where residents had earlier reported hearing a loud explosion.

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Observer IL – 🅾️🅱️🔺@Obs_IL

Dashcam footage from Road 6 of the launch of an AD missile earlier near following this evening airstrikes in . @Intel_sky @IsraelD_Heb @edrormba @BabakTaghvaee @Dannymakkisyria @IntelCrab @IdeologyWars @TheWarOfNow @intellipus

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Syrian state media said its own air defenses had opened fire on “enemy targets,” shooting them down, in what was reported to be an Israeli airstrike.

Syrian eyewitnesses and video on social media showed what appeared to be intense fire on targets near the capital.

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Zaid Benjamin@zaidbenjamin

Syrian News Agency says the “Aggression on ” continues “from the Lebanese airspace” and air defenses are responding.

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SANA said the strikes beginning at about 10 p.m. were carried out from Lebanon and that a number of targets were intercepted.

“It’s an Israeli raid,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor.

“Missiles fired from Israeli planes targeted… arms depots southwest and south of Damascus that belong to Hezbollah or Iranian forces,” Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian TV quoted a military source saying weapons warehouses were hit, and three Syrian soldiers wounded.

Lebanon’s National News Agency reported that Israel Air Force planes were operating over southern Lebanon.

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

: explosions heard over province. Air defenses fired missiles moments ago.

View image on Twitter

Qalaat Al Mudiq@QalaatAlMudiq

. Air defenses in action tonight over W. province. pic.twitter.com/xrYqMYX1E1

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News reports tied between the strike and the earlier arrival of an Iranian cargo jet in Damascus. The 747, belonging to Iran’s Fars Air Qeshm, had landed in Syria just after 7 p.m.

The civilian company has been accused on multiple occasions of smuggling Iranian arms to Hezbollah.

By midnight the flight was en route back to Iran.

Israel in recent years has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria against targets linked to Iran, which alongside its proxies and Russia is fighting on behalf of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Israel has accused Iran of seeking to establish a military presence in Syria that could threaten Israeli security and attempting to transfer advanced weaponry to the Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

The number of airstrikes in Syria attributed to Israel has dropped noticeably in recent months, after a Russian military plane was downed by Syrian air defenses during an Israeli attack on Latakia, killing all 15 servicemen aboard.

Russia blamed the Israeli military for that incident — a charge rejected by Jerusalem — and has supplied Syria with the advanced S-300 air defense system.

The S-300 systems were delivered to Syria last month, but they are not yet believed to be in use, as the Syrian air defense teams still need to be trained to operate them.

Israeli defense officials have met with Russian counterparts a number of times in recent weeks in an effort to re-establish a deconfliction mechanism that will allow Israel to recommence its air campaign.

Russia reportedly wants significant warning period ahead of any Israeli airstrike, something Israeli officials have been said to refuse.

READ MORE:

Dec.14th, Trump Tells Turkey’s President Erdogan That Syria Is “All Yours”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

US President Donald Trump told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the US was “done” with Syria as the pair discussed the possible withdrawal of US forces from the country.

Erdogan was explaining all the problems with the US presence in Iraq and Syria and was irritating Trump, according to a senior administration official who received a detailed readout of the phone call between both presidents.
“OK, it’s all yours. We are done,” Trump said, according to the source.
Erdogan made his case to Trump during the December 14 call that the US should pull out of Syria by pointing to the near-total defeat of ISIS in the country, according to a separate source familiar with the call. The President then sought assurances from Erdogan that Turkey would continue to fight ISIS and defeat the terrorist group.
A senior White House official said Erdogan gave Trump his “word” that Turkey would finish off ISIS.
“In the call on Friday, Erdogan said to the President, ‘In fact, as your friend, I give you my word in this,'” the senior White House official said.
Erdogan, for his part, described his conversation with Trump during a speech last Friday, saying he told Trump that he could clear Syria of ISIS.
“During a conversation I had with Mr. Trump — he said ‘ISIS, can you clear ISIS from this area?'” Erdogan recalled. “We did it before, and we can again as long as we have logistic support from you.”
“And so they began pulling out,” Erdogan said.
“Within the framework of the phone call we had with Mr. Trump, we have started preparing plans for operations to clear the ISIS elements still within Syria,” he continued.
The Associated Press first reported some details of the phone call.
Trump and Erdogan held a phone call again on Sunday where the two discussed the conflict in Syria, both nations said.
“I just had a long and productive call with President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey. We discussed ISIS, our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area. After many years they are coming home. We also discussed heavily expanded Trade,” Trump tweeted.

In Syria withdrawal, Trump discards advice from allies and officials

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

In Syria withdrawal, Trump discards advice from allies and officials

GOP senators give Pence ‘earful’ on Syria 03:11

Washington (CNN)Seated at the head of his Situation Room conference table, President Donald Trump was adamant: American troops must come home from Syria. He had just announced as much to a crowd in Ohio. The assembled military and national security advisers told him the move was rash and unwise. So he gave them six months.

Eight months later, planning for the withdrawal is now underway — against the advice of those same officials, who warned in April that Russia and Iran would gain stronger footholds in Syria when the US presence there evaporates.
On Capitol Hill, even some of Trump’s GOP allies were warning of a grave mistake.
“My sense is that it’s been a shock through the administration that this was made,” Senate Foreign Relations chairman Bob Corker told reporters on Wednesday after returning from the White House, where he had traveled to meet with Trump but was told as he waited the meeting was canceled.
“It’s hard to imagine that any president would wake up and make this kind of decision with this little communication, with this little preparation,” Corker said. “I mean, my understanding is that we’re beginning to move out right now.”
Hurried discussions continued Wednesday about the timing and pace of the troop withdrawal, which the White House said has already begun. The announcement lacked the formality of previous presidents’ declarations they would remove troops from war zones: the White House did not schedule any presidential remarks nor provide any concrete details of the decision.

A ‘total surprise’

IP Syria_00043423

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U.S. preparing for “full” and “rapid” withdrawal from Syria 08:09
In conversations over the past several days, top presidential advisers have counseled Trump that withdrawing personnel from Syria would amount to a retreat from the region and allow adversarial nations to gain influence. Those cautioning against a rapid and immediate withdrawal included Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton, according to people familiar with the discussions.
Diplomatic sources from two countries in the region said their countries were not consulted or informed, and described the news of the planned withdrawal as a “total surprise.”
Trump did alert one key ally two days ahead of the announcement: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a phone call with Trump on Monday, and a subsequent conversation with Pompeo on Tuesday, the US leaders assured him the Americans had “other ways of expressing their influence in the area,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.
In a closed-door lunch with Senate Republicans, lawmakers gave Vice President Mike Pence an “earful” about the decision, according to Corker.
Speaking afterward, Corker said he felt badly for the vice president, who was acting as an emissary to angry lawmakers.
“He had talking points,” Corker said. “There’s no way he could really defend. He did what a loyal soldier would do.”
Trump’s top ally in the Senate, Sen. Lindsay Graham, was firmer.
“I want you to tell the President directly that this is a huge mistake,” he said he told Pence. “You are putting in motion ISIS getting a foothold again. They are not defeated.”
Pence addressed the issue by saying Trump “made a commitment to get out of foreign entanglements,” Graham said. But the vice president himself ignored reporters’ questions on the matter, instead staring ahead blankly as he departed.
It was an astonishing level of pushback from Republicans who, time and again, have avoided overt criticism of their party’s leader. It reflected deep unease among national security experts and advisers about the decision to abruptly withdraw troops from Syria without consulting members of Congress or gathering consensus among the administration’s national security team.

It was Trump’s decision

Graham on Syria: This is a high-risk strategy

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Graham on Syria: This is a high-risk strategy 02:39
An administration official briefing reporters on Wednesday insisted anyone caught off guard by the decision hasn’t been paying attention. But the official did not dispute that some of the President’s top advisers were opposed to the withdrawal.
“The President’s statements on this topic have been 100% consistent from the campaign through his announcement today, so I think the notion that anyone within the administration was caught unaware, I would challenge that, quite frankly,” the official said. “It was the President’s decision to make and he made it.”
Still, the decision only highlighted discrepancies among administration officials over the future of the roughly 2,000 troops deployed in the country.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said this month that the US needed to train thousands of local fighters to ensure a lasting defeat of the terror group. Only last week, the US special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition Brett McGurk said US forces would remain in Syria even after the terror group was defeated.
“I think it’s fair to say Americans will remain on the ground after the physical defeat of the caliphate, until we have the pieces in place to ensure that that defeat is enduring,” he said on December 11.
And in September, Bolton told reporters on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly that US troops would remain in Syria to counter Iran.
“We’re not going to leave as long as Iranian troops are outside Iranian borders and that includes Iranian proxies and militias,” Bolton said.
Pressed about whether Bolton’s comments were still applicable, the senior administration official suggested previous statements no longer applied.
“The issue here is that the President has made a decision, and so previous statements … he gets to do that, that’s his prerogative,” said the official, briefing reporters during a call organized by the White House.
The official could not provide a timeline for the withdrawal of US troops nor say whether the US would continue to carry out airstrikes in Syria, instead referring questions to the Pentagon.
“It’s not information I have,” the official said.
If administration officials and Trump’s allies in Congress were distressed by the decision, however, there was little excuse for them to be surprised. Trump has long railed against foreign entanglements begun by his predecessors and vowed this spring to bring American troops home.
“We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” he said in April, comments that prompted a hurried effort at the Pentagon and in the National Security Council to convince the President that an immediate withdrawal could throw the region into chaos.
When military brass sought to dissuade him, he grew frustrated and complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return, according to senior administration officials.

‘Beside themselves’

Despite his annoyance, Trump eventually agreed to hold off on immediately pulling troops from the war-plagued nation, even after airing his displeasure with top national security officials. At one stage, Dunford asked the President to state explicitly what he wanted to see happen in Syria, according to an administration official.
The President responded by saying US troops need to finish their mission against ISIS in Syria within six months, a timeline military officials — including Mattis — warned would be too short, according to the administration official. Trump responded by telling his team to just get it done.
One person familiar with the meeting said attendees left “beside themselves” about how a hasty withdrawal and cutting of funds for recovery projects like restoring water and power and rebuilding roads could affect the future of Syria, and make it more likely that ISIS could return to prominence.
Derek Chollet, a former US assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration, said much of Washington, including administration officials, lawmakers and Iran hawks have been the victims of “wishful thinking” when it comes to Trump.
“We’ve learned over and over, on issue after issue, that the President has his views, his instincts and that the administration is more often than not on a different page,” Chollet said. “He’s shown time and again he doesn’t listen to logic or reason.”
Advocates of a traditional hawkish GOP foreign policy have been “rationalizing that Donald Trump was going to ratchet up the pressure on Syria,” said Chollet, now an executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund, when Trump has long said he would pull out of the country, which has been ravaged by a civil war that started in 2011.
“He campaigned on this, he talked about it at a rally,” Chollet said of Trump’s desire to end US involvement in Syria. “This has been hiding in plain sight. He has been consistent on this issue.”

A Comment From A CBS Viewer Of Director Comey’s Interview: I Agree With Him

 

 

R.A. Dalton
It is about damn time! I am a 63 year old moderate independent voter and a retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant (1972-1993). The United States getting militarily involved in Syria and supporting anti-al-Assad forces was a major foreign and military policy blunder. What we need here is REALPOLITIK. We cannot afford this type of brinkmanship, especially over a country and people who have NEVER been in our sphere of interest in any way, nor possess anything of value to us. Syria has been a major and close Russian ally since at least 1956. Those who think Russia is bluffing about defending the al-Assad regime, even if it means armed conflict with the United States, are sadly mistaken here. As the 1973 Yom Kippur war showed very clearly, Russia is willing to commit large scale ground forces, and risk conflict with the United States, in order to preserve the al-Assad regime, if they feel it is threatened with overthrow or destruction – a lesson we seem to have forgotten. While I would agree that destroying ISIS was and is a worthwhile military and foreign policy goal, it should have been done at the invitation of the present Syrian government and in cooperation with Russia. It also should have also been done cleanly using our own military forces instead of the questionable rebels we currently back, and who very much have their own agenda. While I would readily agree that the al-Assad regime are not nice folks, neither are half the other government leaders of this world – yet we do business on a day-to-day basis with many of them. I know this to be a fact as I served at both SHAPE HQ and with the School of the Americas during my military career. It is not for us in the United States to decide when a regime needs to go. It is for their own people to decide. We have unilaterally invaded a foreign country who is a close ally of Russia and are supporting forces dedicated to the overthrow of the present regime. How would we react if Russia had done this to one of our longtime allies and what lengths would we be willing to go to stop that? The day Russia decided to commit military ground and air forces to Syria to prop up the al-Assad Regime we should have folded our hand and pulled out our own forces and ended our support of the rebels. Make no mistake here. We cannot win this conflict or achieve the end we seek, ie; regime change, as long as Russia supports the current regime. Even if we do manage to get rid of al-Assad, what happens after that? Our record of regime change in places like Iraq and Libya over the last few decades does not make me feel optimistic about the future of a post al-Assad Syria. Make no mistake here. If we keep this up it will eventually lead to direct armed conflict with Russia. Is the terrible price of a new world war worth Syria? It is time to end our involvement in Syria now, before it is too late! For more on what happened during the Yom Kippur war with Russia see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yom_Kippur_War#Soviet_threat_of_intervention

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Ted Savage

Mr. Dalton, I enjoyed the read so I am going to do a copy paste of what you wrote. I believe that there are many other folks who think as you have written above. I forgot to mention, I am going to copy paste your message onto my blog site at truthtroubles.wordpress.com

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Lebanon Questions Int’l Stances for Ignoring Syrian Refugee Right to Return Home

Tuesday, 27 November, 2018 – 10:15
Lebanese President Aoun meets with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, and his accompanying delegation at Baabda. (Dalati & Nohra)
Beirut – Asharq Al-Awsat
Lebanese President Michel Aoun on Monday emphasized the need for Syrian refugees to return to safe areas in their country.

Aoun was speaking during a meeting at the Baabda palace with President of the Belgian House of Representatives, Siegfried Bracke, in the presence of his accompanying parliamentary delegation.

The president said linking the Syrian refugees’ return to their homeland to reaching a political solution in Syria “raises doubts regarding their stay in their host countries,” citing the example of the Palestinian refugees.

“Seventy years have passed and the solution of the Palestinian issue has not yet been reached,” he noted.

Aoun informed Bracke that Lebanon has asked the international community and the international organizations affiliated to the United Nations to provide assistance to the displaced Syrians after their return, because they are contributing to the reconstruction of their country.

In response to a question, Aoun expressed his surprise at “international positions that ignore the need for the return of Syria refugees.”

He stressed that Lebanon was witnessing an economic crisis due to accumulating challenges, the impact of the international economic situation and the influx of displaced Syrians.

Bracke, for his part, said his country would become a member of the Security Council as of next January, and would contribute to supporting Lebanon’s causes at international platforms.

Also on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri and Bracke signed a three-year extension to 2021 of a partnership protocol between the two countries’ councils, which provides for parliamentary cooperation in sharing expertise in legislation and supervision.

Facing US Sanctions, Tehran Set to Lose Economic Deals in Syria

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Facing US Sanctions, Tehran Set to Lose Economic Deals in Syria

Tuesday, 13 November, 2018 – 09:15
Booth selling handmade crafts in Damascus bazaar, EPA
Damascus – Asharq Al-Awsat
Washington’s newly imposed sanctions on Iran have given rise to many speculations concerning the fate of Tehran’s recently stepped up investments in Syria.

Despite Iran and Syria labeling their relationship as ‘strategic’ when it comes to political, military and security cooperation, their economic ties have remained humble with a small trade exchange valued at $361 million between 2010 and 2011.

Most of trade happening between the two is skewed to benefit Iran, and fails to meet forecast hopes. Both Damascus and Tehran had hoped to achieve a whopping $2 billion exchange.

Iranian investment is at the bottom of the list when compared with other countries that ventured in Syrian markets that opened up to better global trade relations in 2000. The number of projects undertaken by Iran between 2006 and 2010 totaled seven only, and included a cement manufacture plant, energy supply contracts, and car production deals involving the Syrian Iranian Car Manufacturing Company LLC (SIAMCO).

During that very same period, Turkey bagged a total of 26 investment projects in Syria. Back in 2010, the Syria government approved 37 foreign investment projects, ten of which belonged to Turkey.

After the 2011 uprising set Syria on a downward spiral of bloodshed and devastation, the country’s gross domestic production took a crippling blow and bled an estimated $226 million in losses. Syria’s currency lost up to 90 percent of its value, leaving 85 percent of the Middle Eastern country’s population below the poverty line.

In the aftermath of the Syria Civil war, unemployment aggravated to a staggering 53 percent in 2015 and coincided with depleted national foreign currency reserves, with reports saying the country was left with a diminishing 5.88 percent of its pre-war foreign currency reserves.

Reaching such a tattered state of affairs forced the Syrian regime to seek out squeezing more economic help from Iran, in addition to military and political support. Responding to regime calls, Tehran increased its economic input in Syria by late 2011.

Nevertheless, the contribution did not come by for free. Iran soon subdued the Syrian regime by inking multiple agreements stringing across the entirety of Syrian economic sectors. Quintessential to its influence in Syria, Tehran secured a considerable share in production industries linked to the war-torn country’s sovereign wealth and natural resources.

These stakes were handed over to Iran to settle outstanding debts.

In August 2013, Tehran loaned Damascus $3.6 billion to cover for the regime’s oil derivatives expenditure.  But it was agreed that the money buys Iranian oil exclusively.

Later in July 2017, Bashar Assad approved his country acquiring another $1 billion loan to finance exports.

Syria’s energy, telecommunications, financial, construction and industrial sectors– to some degree–are spending Iranian credit. But it will not be a walk in the park for Iran to secure its share of the Syrian economy.

Russia, a strong regime ally, is also seeking to grab serious investment projects in Syria.  In light of competitiveness, observers believe that Moscow might use US sanctions to sway the situation in its favor, especially in forcing the Syrian regime to hand over energy sector concessions, previously promised to Iran, to Russian companies.

US sanctions are also expected to reduce the spread of Iran proxy militias in Syria because of lack of funds—signs of the US economic sanctions effecting Iran’s regional standing began showing as Russian troops began replacing Iran-linked forces in military outposts in eastern Syria.

For example, Russian forces have taken control of locations, formerly held by Iranian militias, in Abu Kamal, a city on the Euphrates river in eastern Syria’s Deir Ezzor province near the border with Iraq.