Turkey: Can The People Force The Tyrant/Murderer Erdogan Out Of Office?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

After 15 years in government—particularly since a failed coup attempt in July 2016 crowned him with extraordinary executive authority—Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has never been more powerful.

Authors

Yet as the June 24 snap elections called by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) approach, there are growing signs that the political dexterity that has long allowed Erdoğan to determine the course of Turkish politics could be waning. While Turkish polls need to be read cautiously, many of them now suggest a high likelihood that the upcoming presidential election will be decided in a run-off, and that Erdoğan’s AKP will fail to retain its majority in parliament. This would create a completely novel and challenging political picture in which the opposition could have a greater say in policymaking than it has had for at least a decade.

CHALLENGES MOUNTING

Many thought that the decision to move the elections forward by over 16 months was a pre-emptive move by Erdoğan to avoid the damage an increasingly volatile Turkish economy is likely to inflict on his popular support. Both inflation and unemployment are over 10 percent and on the rise, the budget deficit saw a 58 percent increase in the past year, and the lira has lost more than 20 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar this year alone. (The dollar-to-lira rate is now 4.6 to 1; it was 3.75 to 1 in January, and around 2 to 1 as recently as mid-2013.) Nor is the Turkish government able to stem the tide: To the contrary, Erdoğan’s frequent and ideologically charged declarations against high interest rates as well as his recent promise to intervene more directly in the policymaking of Turkey’s Central Bank after the elections are increasingly perceived as contributing to the lira’s plunge.

Amid these economic worries, Erdoğan also faces the most diverse and rigorous pool of opposition candidates since he came to power in 2003. A new electoral alliance hoping to unseat Erdoğan includes not only the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the new center-right İyi (Good) Party, but also an Islamist faction, represented by the small yet influential Felicity Party—ironically, Erdoğan’s own political home during his rise to political stardom in the 1990s.

The allied opposition parties have each fielded their own candidates, but promise to unite behind whichever candidate makes it to a run-off against Erdoğan. The CHP’s presidential candidate is Muharrem İnce, a fiery orator who was once known for his staunch secularism and perceived as insensitive to the needs of Turkey’s pious Muslims and large Kurdish minority. Recently, however, he has struck a remarkably conciliatory tone on the campaign trail, adopting a narrative embracing Turkey’s ethnic and social diversity, promoting teaching Kurdish in government schools, and declaring that he has no intention to resurrect Turkey’s once-infamous headscarf ban. İyi Party leader Meral Akşener, the only woman in the race, is the first serious right-wing challenger to Erdoğan in over a decade. Finally, the conservative Felicity Party candidate, the British-educated party head Temel Karamollaoğlu, is easing into his role as an elder statesman and is dishing out intense moral criticism of the ruling AKP. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP)—which the government has heavily stigmatized—was left outside of the opposition alliance, but its party head and candidate Selahattin Demirtaş remains a charismatic leader for much of Turkey’s Kurds and secular youth. This diversity of options available to Turks of all political and ideological persuasions means that Erdoğan is now challenged from multiple sides and that there is likely to be increased opposition turnout at the polls.

ERDOĞAN’S VULNERABILITY

Indeed, such a widened political battleground was exactly what Erdoğan hoped to avoid in calling for the snap vote. Turkey’s opposition parties were outraged at what they took as an attempt to prevent Akşener’s newly-founded İyi Party from participating on a legal technicality. This was circumvented when CHP—shrewdly and unexpectedly—allowed 15 of its members of parliament to be transferred to İyi Party, allowing it to attain the minimum number of sitting MPs to qualify to participate in the snap elections.

Erdoğan himself, in what many perceived as a slip that only proved foul play by the government, criticized Turkey’s High Electoral Commission for not pre-empting what he called an “immoral” opposition strategy. Perhaps even more strikingly, HDP’s Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been jailed since late 2016 with multiple charges but still no indictment (let alone a verdict), is forced to run from behind bars while opposition candidates from Turkey’s right and left continue to call for his immediate release.

The AKP’s apparent heavy-handedness is paired with considerable hubris in the lead-up to the elections. The government casually postponed Turkey’s massively important university entrance exams—the culmination of a multi-year process, exhausting for students and financially draining for parents—once it became apparent that they coincided with the planned election date. In a similarly self-assured move, Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek has noted that Turkey’s troubled markets will see normalization and reform “after the elections,” rejecting out of hand the possibility that the elections may disturb his own policymaking mandate.

But even as the ruling AKP is dismissive of the possibility that Turkey’s next president could be decided in a run-off, Erdoğan himself has been providing much of the fodder for Turkey’s reinvigorated opposition. Phrases lifted cheekily from awkward moments in Erdoğan’s own recent speeches have become humorous opposition slogans. Erdoğan once said he and his party would leave power if and when the electorate said “Tamam” (roughly meaning “okay,” or “that’s enough” in Turkish)—on Twitter, opposition activists have said “T A M A M” in over two million tweets, and the phrase has seeped into daily conversations. Similarly, “Sıkıldık mı?” (“Are we bored yet?” as employed somewhat sheepishly by the president mid-way through a lengthy address to an AKP youth congress) is a phrase that has caught on. İnce, Akşener, and Koramollaoğlu joined in, using the catchphrases both on and off social media often. Indeed, “T A M A M” and “Sıkıldık mı?” represent more than Turkey’s latest social media fad: Their easy and cheerful spread suggests an opposition that is increasingly able to unite around common themes and is rediscovering the tone of youthful irreverence that last befuddled and outraged the AKP government during the Gezi Park protests in 2013. Indeed, a growing number of Turkish commentators opine that it is increasingly the opposition that determines the tone and course of political debate in the country, with AKP officials adopting a clumsily defensive tenor.

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And ironically, it may have been the AKP government itself that has exposed Erdoğan’s Achilles heel. In pushing for the constitutional change that concentrated most executive powers in the person of the president but retained certain lawmaking and veto rights in the parliament, AKP lawmakers do not seem to have considered the possibility that the president’s party may not always hold a majority in parliament. Before the constitutional amendment, the fact that the AKP polled significantly higher than its individual competitors meant that it easily dominated the National Assembly; but the multi-party alliances officiated under the new system, as well as a widened political arena, change electoral math in such a way as to make an AKP parliamentary majority harder to achieve.

Precisely because the creators of last year’s constitutional amendment thought that the AKP was invincible at the polls and that Turkey’s diverse opposition was fundamentally incapable of achieving any internal harmony, then, an opposition parliament under an Erdoğan presidency is a real likelihood. The new system makes little provision for such a cohabitation, and an aggressive opposition could effectively cripple much of Erdoğan’s policymaking. Indeed, if the AKP were to lose its parliamentary majority in the first round of elections, Erdoğan would be entering the presidential run-off election with his aura of invincibility and traditional mastery over Turkish politics severely weakened.

WINNING VOTES, FAIRLY

To gain the upper hand, both sides will have to come up with more concrete policy proposals to remedy an ailing economy, prove their willingness to diffuse the country’s suffocating political polarization, and stir the hearts and minds of an increasingly young and well-educated electorate, 1.5 million of whom will vote for the first time in June.

Opposition parties are just starting to roll out their election programs. These programs, in particular, must convince the electorate that their vision is one that goes beyond unseating Erdoğan: It remains unclear, for example, how a politically and legally cumbersome return to the parliamentary system, which all opposition candidates promise, would be achieved. On the question of the economy, İnce in particular is making waves with talk of moving emphasis from an increasingly unwieldy construction sector to boosting high-tech industrial production, and Akşener with a thoughtful critique of youth unemployment. But a thorough and convincing roadmap for much-needed macroeconomic reform has not been forthcoming from either Erdoğan or his opponents. On foreign policy, İnce is unequivocally advocating improved relations with trans-Atlantic allies and the EU. Akşener, while stressing the need for a strong European-Turkish partnership, is critical of the EU for driving Turkey’s membership talks into a dead end, and not surprisingly emphasizes the importance of relations with the Turkic and Muslim world.

But perhaps most critically, all parties—government and opposition alike—should ensure that controversial new election laws should be applied conscientiously, and that the June 24 elections are free and fair without the slightest shadow of a doubt. Any domestic and international perception that the elections have been tampered with would only aggravate Turkey’s mounting social and economic woes. If the worst fears of some commentators are confirmed and incidents of coercion and violence sully the elections or their aftermath, Turkey’s already heated political scene could be brought to the brink.

To go back to the question we pose in the title: Yes, both Erdoğan and his challengers do have a real chance at victory in what may become Turkey’s most contested electoral race in recent history, and the AKP’s own mistakes should show that there is little to be gained by looking at Turkish politics dismissively.

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem

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

 

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem

Sunday, 13 May, 2018 – 11:30
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. (Reuters)
Cairo, Ankara – Sawsan Abu Hussein and Asharq Al-Awsat

Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi denounced on Saturday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s recent statements about the US relocating its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The minister had stated from Istanbul that there was a “decline and hesitation” within the Muslim world, especially within the Arab League, regarding the decision to relocate the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem.

“We need to take a common stance against this wrong decision. We are seeing some hesitance within the Arab League recently, which is a mistake,” Cavusoglu stated.

Afifi expressed regret at the Turkish minister’s “insistence on negatively targeting the Arab League.”

The statements once again raise real questions about Turkey’s real stance on the regional Arab system, which the Arab League reflects, especially in wake of Turkey’s intervention in Arab territories, which was recently condemned by the Arab Summit in Dhahran, he said.

“Those issuing belligerent statements on the Palestinian cause should have first followed up the matters in a more balanced way to recognize the intense efforts made by the Arab League and its member states,” Afifi added.

He added that these efforts have been ongoing since the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Council of the Arab League, which was held in December in wake of the US administration’s announcement that it was relocating its embassy.

At the end of his statement, Afifi noted that “such Turkish statements certainly do not serve the goal of establishing normal relations between the Arab League and Turkey during this stage.”

Cavusoglu had criticized on Saturday the US move on Jerusalem, saying it was wrong and that Ankara will continue to defend the Palestinian cause.

You Are A King: But Only Of Rubble And Sand

You Are A King: But Only Of Rubble And Sand

 

What are wars actually fought for? Is it the land, is it for the minerals beneath the land? Are wars fought for so-called glory by the soldiers or maybe because of the ego’s of a country’s leaders? As I am writing this I am simply thinking aloud to you my readers, contemplating these words as I type them. Really, what do you think, what do you believe? To you, what is worth fighting for, worth killing for? I have killed before and I am sure that I would have no problem killing again if I felt that it was necessary even though I am very much in my own mind, a pacifist. There are few things that I would ever consider harming another person for as I deplore all violence yet every person has to decide what their personal ‘line in the sand’ is. I know that some folks will say that there is nothing that could get them to pull the trigger on another person, but are they being honest with themselves? If people broke into your home and they were going to butcher you and your family if you didn’t stop them and the only way to stop them was to kill them, whose lives are more important to you?

 

The first paragraph was put more as a personal decision but now I would like to discuss with you the concept of a war breaking out in your home country, in your state, your county, your town. If you are being attacked by a nations military, by their soldiers and weapons, what would you do? Would you try giving up and begging for mercy hoping that they won’t kill you and your family or that they won’t put you all in a labor camp as they burn down everything you ever worked for? Most all wars throughout history have been fought because of the leaders of nations who felt they had the right to invade another country, to try to kill their leaders and to take the treasures that country possessed. Treasures can be many things, it can be using the other country’s population for slave labor, it can be for gold, diamonds, or oil or even the other country’s abundance of timber. Yet there is the reality that all wars do not generate from outside a nations own borders, some wars are simply home-grown as in the case of most ‘Civil Wars’.

 

Here in the U.S. we had our own Civil War back in 1860-1865 that seemed to generate from the concept of slavery of Black folks. I know some Historians say that slavery had nothing to do with the starting of that war but via the different History classes I took in College I still believe that the slavery issue was the foundation of this conflict. As far as I have ever found out this war was all on us, the American White people of the day. What I mean by this is that I do not believe that another nation like England, Canada, Mexico or France were interfering inside our borders trying to cause a war. There is a good bit of evidence that the leaders of the Confederacy had thought that they could convince England to come to their aid with their Navy being that the South had no Navy but the Union did. The reason for this line of thought was that the Confederate States sold a lot of cotton to England but when the war started England simply turned to India to supply them with all the cotton they needed. Our Nations Civil War would have been to create two Nations instead of the one that existed then and now.

 

Not all Civil Wars are for the purpose of splitting one Nation in half. Some Civil Wars are an attempt to simply over through the existing government and to replace it with another form of governance like say from a Monarchy to a Democracy. Some Civil Wars are fought because of Religion as in a government that is run as a Catholic society when the majority of the people are Protestants who don’t want to be ruled by a Pope. In the Middle East there have been many Civil Wars during the past 1,400 years and basically all of them had to do with Islam. I know that there were the Crusades 8-900 years ago where the Pope ordered Catholic Armies to retake the ‘Holy Lands’ from the ‘Pagan’ Muslims just as the Muslim Armies had taken over the ‘Holy Lands’ and the whole Middle East from the Christians and the Jews back in the 6-700’s A.D.. Yet the reality is that during this past 1,400 years almost all of the Civil Wars and wars in general have been fought as a war between the majority Sunni Muslims against the minority Shiite Muslims. Their hatred in general, of each other is only surpassed by their hatred of Christians and Jews.

 

Now I would like to speak with you about what is going on in the Nation of Syria for a few moments. The Ruling family of Syria is the al-Assad’s. Hafez al-Assad took control of Syria in 1970 and he held power until his death in 2000. At this time the current ‘President’ his son Bashar al-Assad took power. So the al-Assad family has had control of Syria for the past 48 years now. Bashar did seem to try to portray himself as a ‘moderate’ to the western world up until many of his own people rose up in protest of his leadership in March of 2011. This Civil War though has had many players with much cause and effect. There are many people who believe that this war was pushed along by Hillary Clinton when she was the U.S. Secretary of State at that time. There has been a lot of outside influence showing its ugly face since the early days of this war. Among the ‘outside’ players has been Iran, Russia, Iraq, Turkey, Hezbollah, the U.S. and Israel as well as the Kurd’s. One of the other huge issues has been a group calling themselves the Islamic State, or ISIS who was trying to set up a Sunni Caliphate in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The al-Assad family belongs to a Shiite sect of Islam so the al-Assad government was able to pull in the big Shiite players of the Islamic world mainly Iran and their proxy Hezbollah out of Lebanon to help them fight and to destroy ISIS. Russia has had a Naval base in Syria for several decades and has been an ally of Syria for a long time so in 2014 President Putin of Russia started supplying Air Power to help out the Assad government.

 

My question for the everyday people of Syria who decided to try to over through President al-Assad back in 2011 is, do you believe that your efforts were worth it? Back before March of 2011, back before the shooting started weren’t you far better off that you are now? Wasn’t your Nation a better place to live then than it is now? By no means am I saying that President Assad is a good moral person but didn’t you have a better style of living then than you do today? Back before the war began the Syrian government allowed Christians, Shiites and Sunnis to all practice their faith without fear of being killed just because of your faith system. Didn’t you then have food in your markets, electricity in your homes and trash pickup on your streets? For me, looking in from the outside it looks like it was a terrible mistake going to war against the al-Assad government. Now this last part is pointed toward President al-Assad. Sir, you are still the Ruler of Syria and it is my belief that you will be for many more years, but, your Nation is in shambles, you are a President of Rubble and Sand and not much else. When this war is over as it almost is now, your Nation, your people have suffered greatly, you have no economy and it is going to take trillions of dollars and decades to rebuild back to the point you were at in March of 2011. Yes you are still the President of your Nation, but my question to you is like unto the one I asked your people earlier in this article, was it worth it?  My questions meaning is, if you could see the damage to your country as it sits today would you say that you staying in power was worth all of this death and destruction. If you could go back in time and simply have resigned as President in March of 2011 if that was what it would have taken to not have had this war, would you have stepped down?

Turkey: Here Is Some Proof That President Erdogan Is A World Class Criminal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN POST)

 

Food Video Is Evidence of ‘Terrorism,’ Turkey Claims in Pastor Andrew Brunson’s Trial

(PHOTO: ACLJ)American Pastor Andrew Brunson, a United States citizen from North Carolina, has been imprisoned in Turkey.

In the ongoing trial of American Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was arrested in December 2016 on false charges of espionage and terrorism in Turkey, a video of a Middle Eastern dish that Brunson’s daughter sent him from the United States is being viewed as evidence.

This “evidence” is mentioned in the 62-page indictment of Brunson, on which the trial is based, according to Citizen Times.

The video is about the Middle Eastern dish Maklube, but the indictment claims it’s “a dish cooked by members of the organization (Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen and his FETO network — a group the Turkish government blames for a 2016 coup attempt) at meetings and religious gatherings at the FETÖ/PDY armed terrorist organization’s cell houses.”

The indictment further claims that American churches are linked to the FBI and the CIA, that around 40 percent of members of the U.S.’ armed forces serving overseas are Mormons, and that someone gathered some information about gas stations in Turkey which shows that Brunson was trying to overthrow the Turkish government.

Brunson, a North Carolina native who has led a small congregation in Izmir for the past two decades, has denied all the charges.

The indictment demands up to 15 years in prison for crimes in the name of the Gulen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and up to 20 years for obtaining state secrets for political or military espionage, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan holds the banned group responsible for the failed coup.

Rights advocates believe that Brunson was arrested in an attempt to force the U.S. government to extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who resides in Pennsylvania.

During his first hearing last month, Brunson declared his innocence and stated, “I haven’t done anything against Turkey. On the contrary, I love Turkey. I have been praying for Turkey for 25 years.”

The U.S. State Department has said it is convinced that the Turkish government does not have any “credible evidence” to convict Brunson of terrorism charges. Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for Brunson’s release during a meeting in Ankara in February. And last May, President Donald Trump also pushed for Brunson’s release during a meeting with Erdogan.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Chairman Daniel Mark said last month that “Pastor Brunson is an innocent religious leader whose imprisonment for over 18 months on false allegations is an abomination. This latest development is yet another reason for the international community to condemn his imprisonment and for Congress and the administration to consider stronger steps against Turkey, including the imposition of targeted sanctions against those involved in this miscarriage of justice.”

Erdogan responded to the calls for Brunson’s release.

Referring to demands he has made in the past, Erdogan said that Brunson’s fate is directly tied with the extradition of Gulen, who is living in Pennsylvania and is accused by the Turkish government of staging a failed military coup in the country in 2016.

“The U.S. is behind [Gulen],” Erdogan told Turkish television news channel NTV, according to Sputnik News on Sunday.

He added that “if you want Brunson, look at the steps you have taken in the past. Why don’t you deport this man in accordance with the extradition treaty?”

Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Turks, Saudis, UAE said to pump quarter billion dollars into East Jerusalem

Israeli officials fear funds to ‘rescue’ Muslim holy sites could touch off Palestinian violence in run up to US embassy move to Israeli capital

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

File: Waqf officials and others prepare to pray outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, rather than enter the compound via metal detectors set up by Israel following a terror attack, July 16, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Less than two weeks away from the scheduled transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are pumping a quarter of a billion dollars into the Islamic Waqf and a slew of Muslim organizations in East Jerusalem, Hadashot news reported Wednesday.

The Waqf (Muslim Trust) administers the Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest shrine, as well as a slew of schools, orphanages, Islamic libraries, Islamic courts and other properties. The mount is the holiest place in Judaism as the site of the ancient temples. Israel maintains overall security control at the site.

The three countries are describing the move as an act of “rescue” to finance renovations at holy sites, but Israeli officials fear their involvement will go beyond money and could spark violence in the run-up to the ribbon-cutting on May 14, the TV report said.

On Sunday, Hadashot News reported that US President Donald Trump was looking increasingly likely to come to the ceremony and was mulling allowing convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard to come too by lifting restrictions that prevent him from travelling to Israel.

Jonathan Pollard (left), and his lawyer Eliot Lauer leave federal court in New York following a hearing, July 22, 2016. (AP/Larry Neumeister, File)

Pollard served nearly 30 years for spying for Israel, and since being paroled in 2015 has been prohibited from leaving US soil, barring him from moving to the Jewish state as he wishes.

Trump’s announcement late last month that “I may go” to the ceremony reportedly surprised Israeli officials who had received no indication from the Americans that he might be attending.

It had been previously reported that Trump had considered but decided against attending the inauguration.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is currently set to lead the 250-member delegation for the event, which will include 40 members of Congress and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump. Other media reports have suggested that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could lead the delegation, in lieu of a Trump arrival.

Welcomed by Israel, the Palestinians have seen the embassy move as a provocation, and have said it effectively negates the possibility of the Trump administration serving as an honest broker in peace talks. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other PA officials have refused to meet with anyone on Trump’s team since he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gestures as he speaks during a press conference on Jerusalem, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 11, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The opening of the embassy will take place just two days after the deadline for Trump’s decision on whether or not to scrap the the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in 2015 between Tehran and six world powers, including the US, under then-president Barack Obama.

The agreement curbed Tehran’s controversial nuclear enrichment program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

Trump has termed the agreement the “worst deal ever” and has called on the other signatories to “fix it.”

He has threatened to tear up the deal unless new restrictions are imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program and other military activities by May 12.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning for the deal to be fixed or nixed.

On Tuesday, he revealed that the Mossad intelligence agency had obtained 100,000 documents from Iran’s own secret nuclear weapons archive proving, he said, that the 2015 deal was based on “Iranian deception.”

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Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq

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

 

Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq

Thursday, 3 May, 2018 – 11:15
Residents look at wreckage at the site of a car bomb attack in Baghdad, Iraq. Reuters file photo
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa
A militant commander, held in Baghdad, confessed on Wednesday having been in direct contact with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

He added that he met Baghdadi in the summer of 2017 for the last time.

Iraq’s judiciary announced that the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, or CCCI, has upheld confessions given by the detained ISIS official, whose name was not disclosed.

He was first arrested in Turkey and then handed over to Iraq following extensive Iraqi intelligence efforts.

Judge Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, in an official statement, said the CCCI has issued the documented confessions of the detained suspect, in which he admits affiliation with ISIS and meeting with Baghdadi.

Baghdadi disappeared after ISIS’ defeat in its main Syria and Iraq strongholds. Many reports claimed his death, but none were confirmed.

“The arrest was made by virtue of joint efforts of Iraqi intelligence service and the Turkish security services,” Birqdar declared.

“The suspect confirmed that the last meeting between them (Baghdadi and the suspect) was in July last year,” Birqdar said.

He added that the detainee was a member of the general committee overseeing ISIS affairs after dividing the organization into five “caliphates” in Iraq, the Levant, Africa, Europe and the Gulf.

The suspect also claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack which targeted Iraq’s Al Tarmia town, located north of Baghdad, in the hopes of shaking up national security prior to elections scheduled for next week.

Strategic and military experts told Asharq Al-Awsat that what happened in Al Tarmia is a clear breach of security.

“There is an imbalance, whether in the nature of investigating intelligence efforts or the speed of response by the security services,” said Dr. Moataz Mohieddin. “There are still sleeper cells in these areas.”

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

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

 

Kurdish Officials’ Visit to Elysee Triggers French-Turkish Crisis

Saturday, 31 March, 2018 – 06:45
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: AP
Ankara, Paris- Said Abdul Razek and Michel Abu Najm
Paris was quick on Friday to reassure Ankara after President Emmanuel Macron was misquoted as saying that his country would deploy forces in the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan quickly responded to the French statements, saying that Manbij would be the next target of his forces to liberate the city from Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara also rejected any French mediation between Turkey and the Syrian Democratic Forces, led by the YPG, which are considered by Turkey as terrorists.

On Thursday, an SDF delegation including Kurdish officials visited the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Macron told the delegation he hoped to build dialogue between the Democratic Forces and Turkey, with the help of France and the international community, according to a communiqué from the Elysee.

However, Turkey completely dismissed the suggestion, as Erdogan said: “We have no need for mediation… We are extremely saddened by France’s… wrong stance on this.”

“Those who go to bed with terrorists, or even host them in their palaces, will sooner or later understand the mistake they’re making,” Erdogan said in Ankara.

He also warned that Ankara did not need a mediator.

“Who are you to mediate between Turkey and a terror group?” Erdogan said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in the capital, Ankara.

According to the Elysee, Macron reaffirmed the priority of the battle against “the terrorist threat” and assured France’s support to the SDF, particularly in stabilizing the security zone in northeast Syria “to prevent the resurgence of ISIS while awaiting a political solution to the Syrian conflict.”

The French show of support to Kurds is not new. Macron was the first Western leader to warn against the possibility of the Turkish operation in Afrin turning into an “invasion of Syrian territories.”

Turkish Forces Begin Besieging Syrian City Of Afrin

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

 

Turkish Forces Begin Besieging Syria’s Afrin

Tuesday, 13 March, 2018 – 10:30
Civilians drive through Ain Dara as they flee Afrin on Monday. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish forces have begun the siege of the Syrian city of Afrin, nearly two months after launching an offensive in the region against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), announced the military on Tuesday.

The military said in a brief statement that the siege of Afrin, the main town in the enclave, had begun Monday.

The forces also captured “areas of critical importance” in the region as of Monday, it added.

Thousands of people had started to flee Afrin on Monday as the Turkish troops got closer to the town, heading toward nearby Syrian regime-controlled areas.

Afrin city is home to around 350,000 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says.

Turkey launched a military offensive into the border enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out YPG forces that it considers to be “terrorists” and an extension of Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

Ankara has threatened to push further east to Manbij, where YPG troops are stationed.

The Turkish foreign minister said on Tuesday that Turkey and the United States have reached an agreement on a plan to jointly station Turkish and US forces in Manbij.

Washington has not confirmed any such plan — and a small contingent of US forces is already in Manbij.

Hurriyet newspaper quoted Mevlut Cavusoglu as telling Turkish reporters during a visit to Moscow that the “YPG will leave Manbij, US and Turkish soldiers will joint ensure its security.”

Cavusoglu revealed that he and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would discuss the issue further when they meet in Washington on March 19.

US-Backed Kurdish Militia Now Fighting U.S. Ally, Turkey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

(ANYONE WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES THAT TURKEY IS A “U.S. ALLY” OR AN ALLY OF NATO IS EITHER TRULY IGNORANT OR THEY MUST BE SMOKING METH) (COMMENTARY BY oldpoet56)

Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)A US-backed Kurdish militia is diverting 1,700 fighters from the battle against ISIS and redeploying them to northwest Syria to repel an offensive by US ally Turkey, in a development could hinder the fight against the terror group.

Four branches of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), thus far tasked with defeating ISIS in Syria, have been transferred from east of the Euphrates Rivers to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin, SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali told CNN in a statement.
“We won’t abandon our positions, but since the beginning of the invasion of Afrin we have said that Turkey is trying to give ISIS another chance at life, and directly affects military operations and campaigns against ISIS,” said Bali.
“Now, offensive operations have ended and we have transformed from a force that hunted ISIS to a force that is concentrated in defensive positions,” he added. Bali said the “majority” of the alliance’s forces are moving to Afrin.
The US-led coalition warned that the SDF’s move could slow the campaign to defeat ISIS.
“The departure of some SDF forces from the Middle Euphrates River Valley highlights the potential costs of any distraction from the defeat-Daesh fight,” said coalition Director of Public Affairs Col. Thomas Veale, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“We remain undeterred in pursuing our mission to defeat Daesh, understanding the effort may take longer with the increased complexity of the situation in northern Syria.”
Turkey, a NATO ally, launched an operation targeting Kurdish groups in Afrin in January to clear the border area of militias it considers to be terrorist organizations. Three Kurdish militias — the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) — have borne the brunt of the offensive.
The YPG is considered the backbone of the US-backed SDF, which was instrumental in eliminating ISIS’ territorial foothold in Syria.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin has said it is Turkey’s “natural right” to ask the US to halt the SDF’s redeployment to Afrin.
The United Nations on Sunday said it was receiving “disturbing reports” of civilian deaths in the northwestern Syrian enclave, and that it believes “tens of thousands” have been displaced.
Syrian Kurds attend a funeral in Afrin in mid-February for Kurdish fighters.

Turkey has said that the nationwide ceasefire ordered by the UN Security Council last month would not affect its Afrin offensive. The ceasefire has also been ignored by Syrian government forces and rebel groups, mainly in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where fighting has caused heavy civilian casualties.
Redeployed SDF forces will be joining pro-Syrian government fighters who entered Afrin last month as part of a deal between the regime and Kurdish forces. Turkey’s deputy prime minister warned at the time of “disastrous consequences” should Syrian government forces intervene in Afrin.

An ‘apocalypse’ in Eastern Ghouta

Meanwhile, Syrian government forces continue to pummel the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta, where the UN says more than 600 people have been killed in recent weeks.
In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, UN human-rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein accused the Syrian government of planning an “apocalypse.”
“It is urgent to reverse this catastrophic course, and to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court,” said Al Hussein, according to a UN statement.
“Nearly half of the food” aid bound for besieged Eastern Ghouta, where reports of malnourishment are rampant, had to be returned, according to the United Nations.
A 46-truck aid convoy — some vehicles stripped of desperately needed medical kits — brought some supplies to the area on Monday, but activists said the convoy had to pull out before everything was unloaded.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on all parties in Syria to “immediately allow safe and unimpeded access” for aid convoys to “deliver critical supplies to hundreds of thousands of people desperate need” in the Damascus suburb, according to a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Tuesday.
Activists say that many of Eastern Ghouta’s residents have taken to makeshift shelters underground, rarely venturing above ground to seek food and water amid nearly incessant airstrikes.
The Syrian government continues to send reinforcements to the rebel enclave, where a ground offensive is underway and regime forces are reported to have captured large tracts of farmland.

Turkey’s President Shows Why I Learned To Spell His Name (Er-Dog’-an)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

(THE ‘DOG’ SHOWS HIS TRUE SOUL, THAT OF A DEMON WITH THE FACE OF A DOG)

Turkish leader’s on-stage interaction with sobbing girl draws fire

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kisses Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform as he speaks to his ruling party members, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 24, 2018.

 AP

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has come under criticism for telling a small girl dressed in a military uniform that she would be honored if she were “martyred” for Turkey.

Erdogan spotted the weeping-and-saluting 6-year-old Amine Tiras while delivering a speech at his ruling party’s congress in the city of Kahramanmaras on Saturday, and had her brought on stage.

Turkey Girl Martyr

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds Amine Tiras, a young girl in military uniform as he speaks to his ruling party members, in Kahramanmaras, Turkey, Feb. 24, 2018.

 AP

After trying to comfort the girl by kissing her on both cheeks, Erdogan told the crowd: “She has the Turkish flag in her pocket. If she becomes a martyr, God willing, this flag will be draped on her.”

Some people were appalled and took to Twitter to criticize the president.

One user said it was the state’s duty to protect children, not to “kill” them. Another said: “you don’t wish death for a child, you never say: ‘God willing.'”

His action comes as nationalist sentiment is running high over a Turkish cross-border military offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters that are affiliated with Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. In recent weeks, children dressed in commando uniforms or reciting nationalist poems have been making appearances in many events that he attends.

Yasar Okutan, a former government minister, accused Erdogan in a television interview of using them to increase votes in presidential and local elections in 2019 and questioned whether the president would say the same for his own granddaughter.