How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Newsletter: How dangerous is Trump? Ask the Kurds

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.

President Trump speaks to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the opening ceremony of the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11, 2018.
(Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP/Getty Images)

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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U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurds are under attack

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF USA TODAY)
(IS TRUMP GUILTY OF TREASON AND MASS MURDER FOR DOING EXACTLY WHAT PUTIN AND IRAN WANTED, GENOCIDE OF THE KURDISH PEOPLE?)(OPED: OLDPOET56)

U.S. and Kurdish soldiers: Side by side just days ago, battling ISIS, now the Kurd’s are under attack

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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

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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.

‘None of our allies can trust us’

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:

  • A hotline established with Turkey to notify U.S. commanders of areas where bombs will be dropped to ensure American troops are out of harm’s way.
  • The movement of 50 U.S. troops from the area contested by Turkey and the Kurds to two American outposts in Syria. Drones are being flown over the area to protect U.S. forces.
  • Kurds continue to guard about 30 prison camps holding about 10,000 ISIS detainees. About 2,000 of those prisoners are foreign fighters from 50 countries, from China to Canada.

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

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Deaths in Syria, but may be inflated

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.

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President Trump Betrays The Kurdish People: Again

President Trump Betrays The Kurdish People: Again

(OPED: by OLDPOET56)

 

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.

Saudi: With Little Progress on ‘Safe Zone,’ Erdogan Says Turkey to Act Alone in Syria

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

 

With Little Progress on ‘Safe Zone,’ Erdogan Says Turkey to Act Alone in N. Syria

Tuesday, 1 October, 2019 – 11:30
FILE PHOTO: An internally displaced woman sits outside a tent in Idlib province, Syria July 30, 2018. REUTERS/ Khalil Ashawi/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Tuesday that his country had no choice but to act alone in northern Syria after a deadline to jointly establish a “safe zone” with the United States in the area by the end of September passed.

“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.

Egypt Calls for Holding Erdogan Accountable over Terrorism, Targeting of Kurds

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

(It is past time that this mass murderer (Erdogan) is removed from breathing free air and replaced with a real Leader who will allow the people of Turkey to live in freedom and peace with their neighbors like the Kurdish people.)(oped: oldpoet56))

Egypt Calls for Holding Erdogan Accountable over Terrorism, Targeting of Kurds

Thursday, 26 September, 2019 – 11:45
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara April 29, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
Cairo – Mohamed Nabil Helmy
In a sharp statement, Cairo made several accusations against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging the international community to “hold him accountable” for what the Egyptian Foreign Ministry called “all of his crimes”.

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.

Saudis: US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

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

 

US Says Will Prevent Turkish Incursion against Kurds in Syria

Tuesday, 6 August, 2019 – 09:45
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Turkey on Tuesday that Washington would prevent unilateral incursions into northern Syria against Kurdish forces.

On Sunday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey, which already has a foothold in northwest Syria, will carry out a military operation in a Kurdish-controlled area east of the Euphrates in northern Syria.

“Clearly we believe any unilateral action by them (Turkey) would be unacceptable,” Esper told reporters traveling with him to Japan.

“What we’re going to do is prevent unilateral incursions that would upset, again, these mutual interests… the United States, Turkey and the SDF share with regard to northern Syria,” Esper said.

The SDF stands for the Syrian Democratic Forces. With US backing, the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), have taken control over the last four years of much of northeastern Syria from ISIS. Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization.

Esper said the United States did not have any “ambition” to abandon the SDF, but stopped short of guaranteeing that the United States would protect them in case of a Turkish operation.

He said the US is trying to work out an arrangement that addresses Turkey’s concerns, adding: “I’m hopeful we’ll get there.”

He did not provide details on where progress is being made.

A team from the Pentagon was in Turkey to speak with Turkish officials about the issue.

Esper suggested that a Turkish operation into northern Syria could affect the SDF’s focus on ensuring ISIS did not retake the territory it once held in Syria and the ability of the US-backed forces to hold the thousands of alleged ISIS fighters in detention.

Esper said the US will not abandon its SDF allies.

The Turkish-led campaign, which has for months been delayed due to resistance from Washington, is aimed at evicting YPG forces from a string of border town in Raqqa and Hasaka provinces.

Ankara has accused Washington of stalling progress on setting up a safe zone inside Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey that would be cleared of the YPG.

This week, Erdogan said both Russia and the United States had been told of the planned operation, but did not say when it would begin. It would mark the third Turkish incursion into Syria in as many years.

Hundreds of US troops are stationed east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria working with the SDF, and an incursion by Turkey could put them in the middle of any firefight between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

Turkey and the US have been negotiating for months over the establishment of a safe zone along the Syrian border that would extend east of the Euphrates to Iraq.

Turkey wants to establish a 25-mile-deep zone. But so far the two sides have failed to reach an agreement.

Ties between the two NATO allies have been strained over a host of issues, including the United States’ removal of Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program after Ankara bought and took delivery of Russian S-400 missile defenses that Washington sees as a threat.

Erdogan Orders A Do-Over Election Because He Lost: Turkey; No Hint Of Democracy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Turkey Orders a Do-Over of Istanbul Election Narrowly Won by Opposition

(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey’s top election authority voided the Istanbul mayoral election won by an opposition candidate and ordered a do-over, ruling Monday in favor of a request by the president’s party to throw out the vote it narrowly lost.

Opposition leaders said the Supreme Electoral Board’s decision to invalidate the results from Istanbul’s election raises concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power and Turkish democracy in general.

A top aide for Erdogan told The Associated Press that the voiding of the mayoral election in Turkey’s biggest city amounts to “a victory for Turkish democracy” by ensuring the results reflect the voters’ choice.

Ekrem Imamoglu of the opposition Republican People’s Party placed first by a slim margin in the March 31 mayoral election, defeating the ruling party candidate, former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Erdogan’s conservative and Islamic-based Justice and Development Party then charged that a series of election irregularities made the results illegitimate.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said the Supreme Electoral Board revoked Imamoglu’s mandate and called a new election for June 23. As grounds to annul the March 31 results, the board said that some ballot station heads were not civil servants as required by law, the news agency said.

Yildirim, the loser in the election, said he hoped the decision would lead to “beneficial and beautiful results for Istanbul.”

In a statement to the AP, presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun said: “Having held free and fair elections for nearly seven decades, Turkey will complete this process in a transparent, lawful and orderly manner.”

Leaders of the Imamoglu’s main opposition party held an emergency meeting in the capital of Ankara late Monday.

Addressing thousands of his supporters in Istanbul, Imamoglu accused the electoral board of bowing to pressure and threats from Erdogan’s party. He vowed to use “democracy” to win back the “rights” that he said were taken away by force. The crowd called for the electoral board members to resign and accused Erdogan of stealing the vote.

Kati Piri, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Turkey, said on Twitter: “This ends the credibility of democratic transition of power through elections in Turkey.”

Police set up barricades around the electoral board’s headquarters in Turkey’s capital, but there were no immediate signs of major demonstrations. Protesters banged pots and pans in several Istanbul neighborhoods, the opposition Birgun newspaper reported.

Howard Eissenstat, a Turkey expert at the nonprofit Project for Middle East Democracy and a Middle East history scholar at St. Lawrence University in New York, said Monday’s ruling “removes the last fig leaf of competitive elections” hiding the erosion of democracy in Turkey.

“Turkey wasn’t democratic yesterday and it’s not democratic today,” Eissenstat said.

He noted that Erdogan’s party previously invalidated election results in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish-populated regions after a pro-Kurdish party won and replaced elected mayors with government appointees.

“Erdogan cannot afford to lose in the second round. It would a disastrous display of weakness,” Eissenstat said.

The local elections held across Turkey on March 31 produced setbacks for the president. His party lost city hall in the capital as well as in Istanbul, ending 25 years of the Justice and Development Party and its Islamist predecessor governing both cities.

The loss of Istanbul, the country’s commercial and cultural capital, was particularly hard for Erdogan. He began his political ascent as Istanbul’s mayor.

At pre-election rallies, the president had repeatedly told crowds, “Whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey” and “Whoever loses Istanbul, loses Turkey.”

Istanbul, with its 15 million residents and strategic location straddling Europe and Asia, accounted for 31% of Turkey’s GDP of $851 billion in 2017 and draws millions of tourists.

The city government had a budget of $8.8 billion last year. The municipality has awarded lucrative contracts to businesses close to the government over the years and offers huge financial resources and employment opportunities.

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‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

‘We Pray For The Caliphate To Return’: ISIS Families Crowd Into Syrian Camps

LISTEN·5:30QUEUE

Women carry children near the al-Hol camp in Syria’s Kurdish-majority region of Rojava. The camp is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last ISIS-held territory.

Jane Arraf/NPR

The women huddle for shelter from the rain under a corrugated iron roof, their long black cloaks dragging in the mud as they wait in line for food and pray for the return of the ISIS caliphate.

The squalid al-Hol camp, in the Kurdish-majority region of Syria known as Rojava, is filled with more than 72,000 people — most of them women and children who came out of the last piece of ISIS-held territory in Baghouz.

They include thousands of Iraqis and Syrians who believe they will usher in a new caliphate. And they pose a risk to the Iraqi government, seeking to repatriate the Iraqis, and to Syrian Kurdish authorities, having nowhere to send the Syrians.

“This is injustice — we pray for the caliphate to return,” says one of the women, who says this is the third day they have been turned away from promised cartons of food. Everything is in short supply here.

“If it weren’t for the airstrikes on our tents and camps killing our children,” she says, “we would not have left the caliphate.” All refuse to give their names.

All of the women are completely covered in long black cloaks, with only a slit for their eyes. A few have covered even their eyes.

“Convert, convert!” a group of women and girls shout at me, urging me to recite the shahada, the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is his messenger.”

“If you became Muslim and cover like us and became a member of our religion, you would not be killed” in the ISIS caliphate, one woman tells me.

To the world, to the governments it threatened and the hundreds of thousands it killed in Iraq and Syria, ISIS was one of the most brutal organizations known.

To its followers — who number in the tens of thousands and escaped the fall of the last ISIS territory in Syria with their beliefs intact — ISIS could do no wrong.

In their caliphate, they say there was justice. There was no bribery or corruption or wasta — the influence-peddling at the heart of most countries in the region.

“Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and any shepherd were on the same level,” says an Iraqi boy, referring to the ISIS leader now believed to be in hiding.

They say when there was food in the caliphate, it was distributed. Here at the camp, they say they come every day to be humiliated and told there’s nothing for them.

Malnourished infants have died due to lack of shelter and medical care in the camp in this breakaway region of Syria, according to the World Health Organization and other aid groups. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, the Rojava region now faces an uncertain future.

The women in the camp believe its harsh conditions are deliberate — part of what they believe to be a continuing war against Muslims around the world.

They say everything under ISIS was what God wanted.

“Of course there were beheadings — why should I lie?” says a Syrian woman. “It’s based on the Quran and the rules of God.”

Asked about the Yazidi minority, which ISIS targeted with a campaign of genocide, the women shout: “Devil worshippers!”

Misconceptions about the ancient Yazidi religion have led to dozens of massacres over the centuries. When ISIS took over a third of Iraq in 2014, thousands of Yazidis were killed or captured as sex slaves.

Women and children wait for distribution of food at the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. Most are family members of ISIS fighters, viewed by the region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership as a potential danger. Iraq says it wants to bring back 30,000 of its citizens to place in Iraqi camps, but few are willing to return.

Jane Arraf/NPR

“If they don’t convert to Islam and they don’t become Muslim like us and worship God, then they deserve it,” an Iraqi woman says.

This camp, they complain, is full of infidels. There is music. Male and female guards wear tight clothing and smoke cigarettes. They say the men harass women.

They insist that everything was better in what they call al-dawla — the state.

“There, a woman would walk with her head held high and a man would lower his eyes,” a Syrian woman says. “Here, it’s the opposite.”

The region’s Kurdish Syrian leadership views the large numbers of radicalized women and children as a continued danger.

“The women and children who have been raised on the mentality of ISIS and terrorism need to be rehabilitated and reintegrated into their communities,” says Abdulkarim Omar, a foreign relations official in the Kurdish region of northeast Syria. “Otherwise, they will be the foundations of future terrorism.”

But there is little money or political will for reintegrating ISIS families in either Iraq or Syria.

At a smaller camp run by the Kurdish Syrian forces, ISIS wives from Western countries are exposed to lectures about how ISIS is not Islam and what ISIS did to Yazidis and other women.

But there are no similar programs at al-Hol camp for Syrian and Iraqi ISIS families — and there are very few in Iraq.

“Any official who goes for an hour and speaks to them can’t change anything — are you a prophet that they would believe in you?” says Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi counterterrorism expert in Baghdad.

“We have proposed [deradicalization] programs in the past, but no one has implemented them,” says Ali Abbas Jahaker, a deputy director at Iraq’s Ministry of Migration. Jahaker says the Iraqi government plans to repatriate 30,000 Iraqi women and children over three months but will not force the families to return against their will.

In Syria, camp officials say so far, fewer than 1,000 Iraqis have indicated they want to go home.

The women at al-Hol say they are there because ISIS leader Baghdadi told them to escape to save their children.

“This is the next generation of the caliphate,” one of the women says. “If you talk to them, they have the true creed implanted in their minds. The true creed will remain.”

And in fact, it’s a girl from the Iraqi city of Tikrit who is among the most fervent in the group. She appears to be 11 or 12.

On judgment day, the girl tells us, God will pour molten metal in the ears of those who listen to music.

“The ones who are not covered, now I ask God in the next life to light the fires of hell with their hair!” she declares.

She says she went to school under ISIS — what she calls a proper school, with boys and girls segregated — and vows she won’t go to school again until the caliphate returns.

They all believe it’s just a matter of time.

Awadh al-Taee contributed reporting from Baghdad.

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.

Related Books

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.

Syria: Truth Knowledge And The History Of This Very Important Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACT BOOK)

 

Syria

Introduction Following the breakup of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, France administered Syria until its independence in 1946. The country lacked political stability, however, and experienced a series of military coups during its first decades. Syria united with Egypt in February 1958 to form the United Arab Republic. In September 1961, the two entities separated, and the Syrian Arab Republic was reestablished. In November 1970, Hafiz al-ASAD, a member of the Socialist Ba’th Party and the minority Alawite sect, seized power in a bloodless coup and brought political stability to the country. In the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Syria lost the Golan Heights to Israel. During the 1990s, Syria and Israel held occasional peace talks over its return. Following the death of President al-ASAD, his son, Bashar al-ASAD, was approved as president by popular referendum in July 2000. Syrian troops – stationed in Lebanon since 1976 in an ostensible peacekeeping role – were withdrawn in April 2005. During the July-August 2006 conflict between Israel and Hizballah, Syria placed its military forces on alert but did not intervene directly on behalf of its ally Hizballah.
History Eblan civilization

Around the excavated city of Ebla in northern Syria, discovered in 1975, a great Semitic empire spread from the Red Sea north to Turkey and east to Mesopotamia from 2500 to 2400 BC Ebla appears to have been founded around 3000 BC, and gradually built its empire through trade with the cities of Sumer and Akkad, as well as with peoples to the northwest. Gifts from Pharaohs, found during excavations, confirm Ebla’s contact with Egypt. Scholars believe the language of Ebla to be among the oldest known written Semitic languages, designated as Paleo-Canaanite. However, more recent classifications of the Eblaite language has shown that it was an East Semitic language, closely related to the Akkadian language. The Eblan civilization was likely conquered by Sargon of Akkad around 2260 BC; the city was restored, as the nation of the Amorites, a few centuries later, and flourished through the early second millennium BC until conquered by the Hittites.

Antiquity and early Christian era

During the second millennium BC, Syria was occupied successively by Canaanites, Phoenicians, and Arameans as part of the general disruptions and exchanges associated with the Sea Peoples. The Phoenicians settled along the coast of Palestine, as well as in the west (Lebanon), which was already known for its towering cedars. Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Hittites variously occupied the strategic ground of Syria during this period; the land between their various empires being marsh. Eventually, the Persians took Syria as part of their hegemony of Southwest Asia; this dominion was transferred to the Ancient Macedonians after Alexander the Great’s conquests and the Seleucid Empire. The capital of this Empire (founded in 312BC) was situated at Antioch, modern day Antakya just inside the Turkish border. But the Seleucid Empire was essentially just one long slow period of decline, and Pompey the Great captured Antioch in 64BC, turning Syria into a Roman province. Thus control of this region passed to the Romans and then the Byzantines.

In the Roman Empire period, the city of Antioch was the third largest city in the empire after Rome and Alexandria. With estimated population of 500,000 at its peak, Antioch was one of the major centres of trade and industry in the ancient world. The population of Syria during the heyday of the empire was probably not exceeded again until the 19th century. Syria’s large and prosperous population made Syria one of the most important of the Roman provinces, particularly during the 2nd and 3rd centuries (A.D.). The Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, who was emperor from 222 to 235, was Syrian. His cousin Elagabalus, who was emperor from 218 to 222, was also Syrian and his family held hereditary rights to the high priesthood of the sun god El-Gabal at Emesa (modern Homs) in Syria. Another Roman emperor who was a Syrian was Marcus Julius Philippus, emperor from 244 to 249.

Syria is significant in the history of Christianity; Saul of Tarsus was converted on the Road to Damascus, thereafter being known as the Apostle Paul, and established the first organized Christian Church at Antioch in ancient Syria, from which he left on many of his missionary journeys.(Acts 9:1-43 )

Islamic era

By AD 640, Syria was conquered by the Rashidun army led by Khaled ibn al-Walid, resulting in the area becoming part of the Islamic empire. In the mid-7th century, the Umayyad dynasty, then rulers of the empire, placed the capital of the empire in Damascus. Syria was divided into four districts: Damascus, Hims, Palestine and Jordan. The Islamic empire stretched from Spain and Morocco to India and parts of Central Asia, thus Syria prospered economically, being the capital of the empire. Early Ummayad rulers such as Abd al-Malik and al-Walid constructed several splendid palaces and mosques throughout Syria, particularly in Damascus, Aleppo and Hims. There was great toleration of Christians in this era and several held governmental posts. The country’s power dramatically declined during later Ummayad rule; mainly due to the totalitarianism and corruption spread among the empire’s leaderships, conflict between its general staff, and the successive revolutions by the oppressed and miserable groups. As one Ummayad chieftain responded to a question about the reasons of the decline of their empire: “Rather visiting what needed to be visited, we were more interested in the pleasure and enjoyment of life; we oppressed our people until they gave up and sought relief from us, […] we trusted our ministers who favoured their own interests and kept secrets from us, and we unhurriedly rewarded our soldiers that we lost their obedience to our enemies.” Ummayad dynasty was then overthrown by the Abbasid dynasty in 750, who moved the capital of empire to Baghdad. Arabic — made official under Ummayad rule — became the dominant language, replacing Greek and Aramaic in the Abbasid era. In 887, the Egypt-based Tulunids annexed Syria from the Abbasids, and were later replaced by the Hamdanids originating in Aleppo founded by Sayf al-Daula.

Sections of the coastline of Syria were briefly held by Frankish overlords during the Crusades of the 12th century, and were known as the Crusader state of the Principality of Antioch. The area was also threatened by Shiite extremists known as Assassins (Hashshashin). In 1260, the Mongols arrived, led by Hulegu with an army 100,000 strong, destroying cities and irrigation works. Aleppo fell in January 1260, and Damascus in March, but then Hulegu needed to break off his attack to return to China to deal with a succession dispute. The command of the remaining Mongol troops was placed under Kitbugha, a Christian Mongol. A few months later, the Mamluks arrived with an army from Egypt, and defeated the Mongols in the Battle of Ayn Jalut, in Galilee. The Mamluk leader, Baybars, made his capitals in Cairo and Damascus, linked by a mail service that traveled by both horses and carrier pigeons. When Baybars died, his successor was overthrown, and power was taken by a Turk named Qalawun. In the meantime, an emir named Sunqur al-Ashqar had tried to declare himself ruler of Damascus, but he was defeated by Qalawun on 21 June 1280, and fled to northern Syria. Al-Ashqar, who had married a Mongol woman, appealed for help from the Mongols, and in 1281, they arrived with an army of 50,000 Mongols, and 30,000 Armenian, Georgian, and Turkish auxiliaries, along with Al-Ashqar’s rebel force. The Mongols of the Ilkhanate took the city, but Qalawun arrived with a Mamluk force, persuaded Al-Ashqar to switch sides and join him, and they fought against the Mongols on 29 October 1281, in the Second Battle of Homs, a close battle which resulted in the death of the majority of the combatants, but was finally won by the Mamluks.

In 1400, Timur Lenk, or Tamerlane, invaded Syria, sacked Aleppo and captured Damascus after defeating the Mamluk army. The city’s inhabitants were massacred, except for the artisans, who were deported to Samarkand. It was during the conquests of Timur that the indigenous Christian population of Syria began to suffer under greater persecutions.

By the end of the 15th century, the discovery of a sea route from Europe to the Far East ended the need for an overland trade route through Syria. Shattered by the Mongols, Syria was easily absorbed into the Ottoman Empire from the 16th through 20th centuries, and found itself largely apart from, and ignored by, world affairs. see also Ottoman Syria

Ottoman era

Fighting on the side of Germany during World War I, plans by the Entente powers to dissolve this great Ottoman territory could now begin. Two allied diplomats (Frenchman François Georges-Picot and Briton Mark Sykes) secretly agreed, long before the end of the war, how to split the Ottoman Empire into several zones of influence. The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 set the fate of modern Southwest Asia for the coming century; providing France with the northern zone (Syria, with later the upcoming Lebanon), and the United Kingdom with the southern one (Jordan, Iraq and later, after renegotiations in 1917, Palestine – ‘to secure daily transportation of troops from Haifa to Baghdad’ – agreement n° 7). The two territories were only separated with a straight border line from Jordan to Iran. But early discoveries of oil in the region of Mosul just before to end of the war led to yet another negotiation with France in 1918 to cede this region to ‘Zone B’, or the British zone of influence. The borders between the ‘Zone A’ and ‘Zone B’ have not changed from 1918 to this date. Since 1920, the two sides have been recognized internationally under mandate of the League of Nations by the two dominant countries; France and the United Kingdom.

French Mandate

The National Bloc signing the Franco-Syrian Treaty of Independence in Paris in 1936. From left to right: Saadallah al-Jabiri, Jamil Mardam Bey, Hashim al-Atassi (signing), and French Prime Minister Léon Blum.

In 1920, an independent Arab Kingdom of Syria was established under Faisal I of the Hashemite family, who later became the King of Iraq. However, his rule over Syria ended after only a few months, following the clash between his Syrian Arab forces and regular French forces at the Battle of Maysalun. French troops occupied Syria later that year after the San Remo conference proposed that the League of Nations put Syria under a French mandate. Syria and France negotiated a treaty of independence in September 1936, and Hashim al-Atassi, who was Prime Minister under King Faisal’s brief reign, was the first president to be elected under a new constitution, effectively the first incarnation of the modern republic of Syria. However, the treaty never came into force because the French Legislature refused to ratify it. With the fall of France in 1940 during World War II, Syria came under the control of the Vichy Government until the British and Free French occupied the country in July 1941. A famous singer of the time, Asmahan, assisted the British and free French forces by using her fame to convince the Syrians to allow the forces in without a fight (see Wikipedia reference to Asmahan). Syria proclaimed its independence again in 1941 but it wasn’t until 1 January 1944 that it was recognised as an independent republic. Continuing pressure from Syrian nationalist groups and British pressure forced the French to evacuate their troops in April 1946, leaving the country in the hands of a republican government that had been formed during the mandate.

Instability and foreign relations: independence to 1967

Although rapid economic development followed the declaration of independence, Syrian politics from independence through the late 1960s were marked by upheaval. Between 1946 and 1956, Syria had 20 different cabinets and drafted four separate constitutions. In 1948, Syria was involved in the Arab-Israeli War, aligning with the other local Arab nations who were attempting to prevent the establishment of Israel. The Syrian army was pressed out of most of the Israel area, but fortified their strongholds on the Golan Heights and managed to keep their old borders and some additional territory (this was converted into “supposed” demilitarized zones under UN supervision, but then gradually lost to Israel in the inter-war years; the status of these territories have proved a stumbling-block for Syrian-Israeli negotiations).

The humiliating defeat suffered by the army was one of several trigger factors for Col. Husni al-Za’im’s seizure of power in 1949, in what has been described as the first military coup d’état of the Arab world. This was soon followed by a new coup, by Col. Sami al-Hinnawi, who was then himself quickly deposed by Col. Adib Shishakli, all within the same year. After exercising influence behind the scenes for some time, dominating the ravaged parliamentary scene, Shishakli launched a second coup in 1951, entrenching his rule and eventually abolishing multipartyism altogether. Only when president Shishakli was himself overthrown in a 1954 coup, was the parliamentary system restored, but it was fundamentally undermined by continued political maneuvering supported by competing factions in the military. By this time, civilian politics had been largely gutted of meaning, and power was increasingly concentrated in the military and security establishment, which had now proven itself to be the only force capable of seizing and – perhaps – keeping power. Parliamentary institutions remained weak and ineffectual, dominated by competing parties representing the landowning elites and various Sunni urban notables, while economy and politics were mismanaged, and little done to better the role of Syria’s peasant majority. This, as well as the influence of Nasserism and other anti-colonial ideologies, created fertile ground for various Arab nationalist, Syrian nationalist and socialist movements, who represented disaffected elements of society, notably including the religious minorities, and demanded radical reform.

During the Suez Crisis of 1956, after the invasion of the Sinai Peninsula by Israeli troops, and the intervention of British and French troops, martial law was declared in Syria. The November 1956 attacks on Iraqi pipelines were in retaliation for Iraq’s acceptance into the Baghdad Pact. In early 1957 Iraq advised Egypt and Syria against a conceivable takeover of Jordan.

In November 1956 Syria signed a pact with the Soviet Union, providing a foothold for Communist influence within the government in exchange for planes, tanks, and other military equipment being sent to Syria. With this increase in the strength of Syrian military technology worried Turkey, as it seemed feasible that Syria might attempt to retake Iskenderun, a matter of dispute between Syria and Turkey. On the other hand, Syria and the U.S.S.R. accused Turkey of massing its troops at the Syrian border. During this standoff, Communists gained more control over the Syrian government and military. Only heated debates in the United Nations (of which Syria was an original member) lessened the threat of war.

Syria’s political instability during the years after the 1954 coup, the parallelism of Syrian and Egyptian policies, and the appeal of Egyptian President Gamal Abdal Nasser’s leadership in the wake of the Suez crisis created support in Syria for union with Egypt. On 1 February 1958, Syrian president Shukri al-Quwatli and Nasser announced the merging of the two countries, creating the United Arab Republic, and all Syrian political parties, as well as the Communists therein, ceased overt activities.

The union was not a success, however. Following a military coup on 28 September 1961, Syria seceded, reestablishing itself as the Syrian Arab Republic. Instability characterized the next 18 months, with various coups culminating on 8 March 1963, in the installation by leftist Syrian Army officers of the National Council of the Revolutionary Command (NCRC), a group of military and civilian officials who assumed control of all executive and legislative authority. The takeover was engineered by members of the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (Baath Party), which had been active in Syria and other Arab countries since the late 1940s. The new cabinet was dominated by Baath members.

The Baath takeover in Syria followed a Baath coup in Iraq the previous month. The new Syrian Government explored the possibility of federation with Egypt and with Baath-controlled Iraq. An agreement was concluded in Cairo on 17 April 1963, for a referendum on unity to be held in September 1963. However, serious disagreements among the parties soon developed, and the tripartite federation failed to materialize. Thereafter, the Baath government in Syria and Iraq began to work for bilateral unity. These plans foundered in November 1963, when the Baath government in Iraq was overthrown. In May 1964, President Amin Hafiz of the NCRC promulgated a provisional constitution providing for a National Council of the Revolution (NCR), an appointed legislature composed of representatives of mass organizations—labour, peasant, and professional unions—a presidential council, in which executive power was vested, and a cabinet. On 23 February 1966, a group of army officers carried out a successful, intra-party coup, imprisoned President Hafiz, dissolved the cabinet and the NCR, abrogated the provisional constitution, and designated a regionalist, civilian Baath government on 1 March. The coup leaders described it as a “rectification” of Baath Party principles.

Six Day War and Aftermath

The new government generally aligned itself with the hawkish Nasser in intra-Arab conflicts over how hard of a line to take against Israel. When Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Eilat-bound ships, the Baath government supported the Egyptian leader, amassed troops in the strategic Golan Heights to defend itself against Israeli shellings into Syria. According to the UN office in Jerusalem from 1955 until 1967 65 of the 69 border flare-ups between Syria and Israel were caused and started by Israel. The New York Times reported in 1997 that “Moshe Dayan, the celebrated commander who, a Defense Minister in 1967, gave the order to conquer the Golan…[said] many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel, and the kibbutz residents who pressed the government to take the Golan Heights did so less for security than for their farmland.” After Israel launched a preemptive strike on Egypt to begin the June 1967 war, Syria joined the battle against Israel as well. In the final days of the war, after having captured the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, as well as the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from Jordan, Israel turned its attention to Syria, capturing the entire Golan Heights in under 48 hours.

Conflict developed between an extremist military wing and a more moderate civilian wing of the Baath Party. The 1970 retreat of Syrian forces sent to aid the PLO during the “Black September” hostilities with Jordan reflected this political disagreement within the ruling Baath leadership. By 13 November 1970, Minister of Defense Hafez al-Assad was solidly established as the strongman of the government, when he effected a bloodless military coup (“The Corrective Movement”).

Baath Party rule under Hafez al-Assad, 1970–2000

Upon assuming power, Hafez al-Assad moved quickly to create an organizational infrastructure for his government and to consolidate control. The Provisional Regional Command of Assad’s Arab Baath Socialist Party nominated a 173-member legislature, the People’s Council, in which the Baath Party took 87 seats. The remaining seats were divided among “popular organizations” and other minor parties. In March 1971, the party held its regional congress and elected a new 21-member Regional Command headed by Assad. In the same month, a national referendum was held to confirm Assad as President for a 7-year term. In March 1972, to broaden the base of his government, Assad formed the National Progressive Front, a coalition of parties led by the Baath Party, and elections were held to establish local councils in each of Syria’s 14 governorates. In March 1973, a new Syrian constitution went into effect followed shortly thereafter by parliamentary elections for the People’s Council, the first such elections since 1962.

On 6 October 1973, Syria and Egypt began the Yom Kippur War by staging a surprise attack against Israel (Arabs call it the “Ramadan War” or “October War” because Syria and Egypt attacked during Ramadan in the month of October). But despite the element of surprise, the Israeli army had recovered, pushed the Syrian army out of the Golan and invaded into Syrian territory beyond the 1967 border. As a result, Israel continued to occupy the Golan Heights as part of the Israeli-occupied territories.

In early 1976, the Lebanese civil war was going poorly for the Maronite Christians. Syria sent 40,000 troops into the country to prevent them from being overrun, but soon became embroiled in the Lebanese Civil War, beginning the 30 year Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Many crimes in Lebanon were associated to the Syrians forces and intelligences: Kamal Jumblat, Bachir Gemayel, Moufti Hassan Khaled, Rene Mouawad,… Over the following 15 years of civil war, Syria fought both for control over Lebanon, and as an attempt to undermine Israel in southern Lebanon, through extensive use of Lebanese allies as proxy fighters. Many see the Syrian Army’s presence in Lebanon as an occupation, especially following the end of the civil war in 1990, after the Syrian-sponsored Taif Agreement. Syria then remained in Lebanon until 2005, exerting a heavy-handed influence over Lebanese politics, that was deeply resented by many.

About one million Syrian workers came into Lebanon after the war ended to find jobs in the reconstruction of the country.[28] Syrian workers were preferred over Palestinian and Lebanese workers because they could be paid lower wages, but some have argued that the Syrian government’s encouragement of citizens entering its small and militarily dominated neighbor in search of work, was in fact an attempt at Syrian colonization of Lebanon. Now, the economies of Syria and Lebanon are completely interdependent. In 1994, under pressure from Damascus, the Lebanese government controversially granted citizenship to over 200,000 Syrian residents in the country., (For more on these issues, see Demographics of Lebanon)

The authoritarian government was not without its critics, though open dissent was repressed. A serious challenge arose in the late 1970s, however, from fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, who reject the basic values of the secular Baath program and object to rule by the Alawis, whom they consider heretical. From 1976 until its suppression in 1982, the arch-conservative Muslim Brotherhood led an armed insurgency against the government. In response to an attempted uprising by the brotherhood in February 1982, the government crushed the fundamentalist opposition centered in the city of Hama, leveling parts of the city with artillery fire and causing between 10.000 and 25.000 of dead and wounded, mostly civilians (see Hama massacre). Since then, public manifestations of anti-government activity have been very limited.

Syria’s 1990 participation in the U.S.-led multinational coalition aligned against Saddam Hussein marked a dramatic watershed in Syria’s relations both with other Arab states and with the Western world. Syria participated in the multilateral Southwest Asia Peace Conference in Madrid in October 1991, and during the 1990s engaged in direct, face-to-face negotiations with Israel. These negotiations failed, and there have been no further direct Syrian-Israeli talks since President Hafiz al-Assad’s meeting with then President Bill Clinton in Geneva in March 2000.

21st century

Hafiz al-Assad died on 10 June 2000, after 30 years in power. Immediately following al-Assad’s death, the Parliament amended the constitution, reducing the mandatory minimum age of the President from 40 to 34. This allowed his son, Bashar al-Assad, to become legally eligible for nomination by the ruling Baath party. On 10 July 2000, Bashar al-Assad was elected President by referendum in which he ran unopposed, garnering 97.29% of the vote, according to Syrian Government statistics. He was inaugurated into office on 17 July 2000 for a 7-year term. He is married to Asma al-Assad, an activist herself and advocate of reforms.

Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text God protects Syria on the old city wall of Damascus 2006.

Under Bashar al-Assad hundreds of political prisoners were released and a steps were taken towards easing media restrictions. However, Bashar al-Assad has made it clear that his priority is economic rather than political reform.

On 5 October 2003, Israel bombed a site near Damascus, charging it was a terrorist training facility for members of Islamic Jihad. The raid was in retaliation for the bombing of a restaurant in the Israeli town of Haifa that killed 19. Islamic Jihad said the camp was not in use; Syria said the attack was on a civilian area.

The German Chancellor said that the attack “cannot be accepted” and the French Foreign Ministry said “The Israeli operation… constituted an unacceptable violation of international law and sovereignty rules.” The Spanish UN Ambassador Inocencio Arias called it an attack of “extreme gravity” and “a clear violation of international law.” However, the United States moved closer to imposing sanctions on Syria, following the adoption of the Syria Accountability Act by the House of Representatives International Relations committee. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, all included in what the EU and the U.S view as terrorist groups, all take refuge and enjoy strong relationships with the Syrian government.

Syrian Kurds protest in Brussels, Geneva, in Germany at the US and UK embassies and in Turkey, against violence in north-east Syria starting Friday, 12 March, and reportedly extending over the weekend resulting in several deaths, according to reports. The Kurds allege the Syrian government encouraged and armed the attackers. Signs of rioting were seen in the towns of Qameshli and Hassakeh.

On 6 September 2007, Israeli jet fighters carried out an air strike in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate, known as Operation Orchard, on a target claimed to be a nuclear reactor under construction by North Korean technicians. Reportedly a number of the technicians were killed.

2008 Israeli Peace Talks

In April, 2008, President Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. This was confirmed in May, 2008, by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. As well as a peace treaty, the future of the Golan Heights is being discussed. President Assad was quoted in the The Guardian as telling the Qatari paper:
…there would be no direct negotiations with Israel until a new US president takes office. The US was the only party qualified to sponsor any direct talks, [President Assad] told the paper, but added that the Bush administration “does not have the vision or will for the peace process. It does not have anything.”

(Just as George W. Bush was clueless about how  to do anything in the Middle-East except how to line the pockets of his family and friends so is the situation with this buffoon that sits in the White House today.  Since the Syrian Civil War started in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrian citizens have been slaughtered and there have been many people pulling on the triggers. Even though President al-Assad has never been a Saint by any means he was better than the alternatives that U.S. Secretary of State (at the time) Hillary Clinton was trying to use to over through President Assad with.  This war was an event that the U.S. Government should have stayed as far away from as it possibly could but I guess the revenue’s going to U.S. Arms makers and to the U.S. Military infrastructure was just to great to resist.)
(Before this Civil War ever started, back when the so called ‘Arab Spring’ was going around the map toward Syria I knew that if there was a war in Syria that President al-Assad would be the one standing when it was all over. I know that I am not the brightest bulb in the package so I know that there had to be many other annalists here in the U.S. and around the rest of the world that knew this too. For the same reasons that have proven to be reality, Russia being their ally along with Iran and Hezbollah all joining forces to make sure that the current status-quo stayed in effect. When the door was opened for a major Sunni army to invade Syria (ISIS) even the U.S. got into the direct ‘military game’. What I mean by game is simple, who was allowed to bomb who, and whom could we not bomb. Russia has been playing the same game, they are on Syria’s side but they were trying to not bomb the American soldiers even though we were wanting to bring down the Syrian government and we were trying to not bomb the Russian soldiers even though they are on the side of the Syrian government.)
(When this war is finished President al-Assad will still be the President yet the hate and mistrust among the people of Syria toward the government and the government toward the Syrian people will last for several decades. When the war is over the Nation of Syria will need trillions of dollars of loans from the international community in order to rebuild and it will take at least two or three decades to get the Syrian infrastructure back to the point it was at in March of 2011. Another reality is the old cities like Allepo which had buildings many hundreds of years old, can never be rebuilt to their former glory, ever. Now that this war is winding down I believe that President al-Assad must insist that Iran remove all of their assets out of Syria. There are two main reason that I say this. One is the example of this past month where Israel has gone after Iranian positions within Syria, Syria can have peace with Israel if they want it but they must expel Iran. The second reason is that if President al-Assad does not remove Iran’s military and Hezbollah’s military from Syrian soil it won’t be long until Tehran is dictating the policies inside of Syria, not President al-Assad.)(Commentary in red is by oldpoet56)
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