Trump abruptly cancels NATO news conference after summit turns sour

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

Trump abruptly cancels NATO news conference after summit turns sour

KEY POINTS
  • President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly canceled a news conference that was scheduled to cap a contentious trip to the U.K. for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary meeting.
  • The presser was scheduled to come after a series of bilateral meetings with NATO members, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
  • Hours before it was set to start, video emerged of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caught on a hot mic apparently mocking Trump.
GP: Donald Trump NATO Summit 191204 BRITAIN-NATO-SUMMIT
US President Donald Trump (L) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) pose for the family photo at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019.
Peter Nicholls | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly canceled a press conference that was scheduled to cap a contentious trip to the U.K. for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 70th anniversary meeting.

“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Trump said in a series of tweets.

“We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!” Trump said.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

Great progress has been made by NATO over the last three years. Countries other than the U.S. have agreed to pay 130 Billion Dollars more per year, and by 2024, that number will be 400 Billion Dollars. NATO will be richer and stronger than ever before….

14.5K people are talking about this

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….Just finished meetings with Turkey and Germany. Heading to a meeting now with those countries that have met their 2% GOALS, followed by meetings with Denmark and Italy….

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

….When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington. We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days. Safe travels to all!

14.2K people are talking about this

The presser was scheduled to come after a series of bilateral meetings with NATO members, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

Hours before the news conference was set to start, video emerged of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau caught on a hot mic mocking Trump.

Watch Trudeau, Macron and Johnson appear to gossip about Trump on hot mic

Trump offered a blunt retort when asked Wednesday about Trudeau’s comments.

“He’s two-faced,” Trump said, before adding, “I find him to be a very nice guy but the truth is I called him out on the fact that he’s not paying 2% and I guess he’s not very happy about it.” Trump has long griped about NATO members paying less than their “fair share” toward the alliance, and brought up the issue repeatedly over the two-day anniversary meeting this week.

In an audio clip later published by reporters covering the NATO event, Trump appeared to compliment himself for his harsh words toward Trudeau. “That was funny when I said the guy’s two-faced,” Trump is heard saying.

Trudeau, speaking with French President Emmanuel Macron, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, said that Trump “was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top.”

“You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor,” Trudeau said at another point in the video, raising his eyebrows and motioning with his hand for effect.

None of the politicians in the hot mic video, which emerged on social media Tuesday evening, mentioned Trump by name. But Trudeau reportedly said Wednesday that it was Trump’s surprise announcement of the location for next year’s Group of Seven summit that made “his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”

Trump revealed Tuesday that the 2020 G-7 summit will be held at Camp David in Maryland, weeks after he retreated from a plan to host it at his own Miami golf resort.

Later Wednesday, while sitting alongside Conte, Trump explained that “There’s no reason to have press conferences because you had about eight of them,” apparently referring to his lengthy prior remarks to reporters.

The hot mic gossip was the latest point of tension at the meeting, but it was far from the only dispute between leaders on display.

Macron defended his recent claim that NATO was suffering from “brain death” from critics including Trump, who had called that comment “very nasty.”

The French leader also called out Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his threat to oppose NATO’s plan for the defense of Baltic countries if it does not recognize groups Turkey deems as terrorists. The White House announced Wednesday morning that Trump had met with Erdogan during the NATO event.

Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Trump Sweet, Congress Sour On Turkey

President Trump and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) take part in a joint press conference during Erdogan’s visit to the White House on Wednesday.

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

After welcoming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the opening day of public impeachment hearings for a second visit to the Oval Office, President Trump did something highly unusual for such encounters: He invited a select group of Republican senators to join the two leaders’ meeting.

Trump’s decision to invite fellow Republicans only from the GOP-led upper chamber of Congress was telling. Bipartisan legislation and resolutions condemning Turkey’s Oct. 9 invasion of northern Syria (three days after Trump removed U.S. forces from that area) have abounded on both sides of the Capitol, but only the Democrat-held House of Representatives has actually voted on and passed such measures.

On Oct. 16 — the same day that Trump announced sanctions against Turkey for its Syria incursion — every member of the House GOP leadership voted in favor of a bipartisan resolution opposing Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area invaded by Turkey and calling on Erdogan to end military action there immediately. The measure passed 354-60, with only Republicans voting against it.

Trump then dropped the sanctions for Turkey’s incursion after one week, citing a cease-fire agreement worked out between Turkey and Vice President Pence.

The House was not swayed. It responded Oct. 29 with the Protect Against Conflict by Turkey Act. PACT, as the bipartisan measure was dubbed, calls for sanctions against high-ranking Turkish officials and a State Department estimate of the net worth of Erdogan and his family members.

“These sanctions are specifically designed to target the Turkish officials and institutions responsible for the bloodshed in Syria without senselessly hurting the Turkish people,” House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Eliot Engel said in a floor speech preceding the 403-16 vote that passed the measure. “After all, it is Erdogan—not the Turkish people—that is responsible for this horror. Erdogan is an authoritarian thug.”

House Republicans joined in the condemnation of Turkey’s leader. “We’re sending a message to the Erdogan government that the U.S. will hold them liable for their actions,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill. “If he does not want to act like a NATO nation, then his government will feel the repercussions of such decisions.”

The PACT floor action took place the same day the House infuriated Turkey by holding the first full chamber vote ever to condemn as “genocide” the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians a century ago by Ottoman Turks. Again, the vote was overwhelmingly lopsided in favor, 405-11.

For decades, Turkey had successfully lobbied Congress to prevent such a vote characterizing that killing of Armenians as genocide.

“When I was ambassador to Turkey 15 years ago, there was a very deep well of public support for Turkey in the United States and particularly in the U.S. Congress, and that really doesn’t exist very much anymore,” says Eric Edelman, who served as the top U.S. diplomat in Ankara during the George W. Bush administration. “I think that the Turks have counted for some time on the personal relationship between [Erdogan and Trump] to get them out of the deep trouble they’re in in the Congress.”

Turkey’s acquisition in July of Russia’s S-400 air defense system crossed a line for many lawmakers. The Russian system is not only incompatible with NATO military equipment — it is designed to shoot down advanced aircraft such as the F-35 stealth fighter jet, 100 of which Turkey had planned to acquire as a partner in the international consortium building the Lockheed Martin warplane.

For choosing Russia’s S-400 over Raytheon’s Patriot surface-to-air missile system, Turkey was kicked out of the F-35 consortium and training of its pilots to fly the stealth fighter at U.S. military bases was suspended.

But lawmakers are demanding further punishment for Turkey’s defiance. The House’s PACT measure designates Ankara’s acquisition of the S-400 system as a “significant transaction” with Russia’s arms industry. That would automatically oblige the Trump administration to impose on Turkey 5 of 12 sanctions listed by the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.

Under that law, it’s actually up to the executive branch to determine if a “significant transaction” has occurred. Because the Trump administration has failed to do so, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., have introduced a privileged resolution in the Senate obliging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to make such a determination within 30 days of the resolution’s passage. Such a rarely used privileged resolution could bypass the Foreign Relations Committee and would have to be voted on by the full Senate, where it would not need the 60 votes usually required for final consideration.

“The administration is breaking the law by ignoring this provision [of CAATSA] and kowtowing to Ankara,” Menendez said last week on the Senate floor. “Turkey must be sanctioned for the S-400 system, and it should happen today — otherwise, it will send a global message that we are not serious about sanctioning significant transactions with the Russian military.”

It appears unlikely the privileged resolution will sway Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. “Do we know what the political impact such sanctions will have inside Turkey?” McConnell asked late last month on the Senate floor. “Will they weaken President Erdogan or rally the country to his cause? Do we know the impact sanctions will have on U.S. companies?”

Former U.S. ambassador to Turkey Edelman sees further sanctions, which could limit U.S. arms sales to Turkey, as problematic. “It’s a little bit awkward to be saying we’re going to sanction you because you’re buying Russian military equipment, we don’t want you buying Russian military equipment,” he says, “and so the punishment is you’re not allowed to buy American military equipment.”

The U.S. has been the source of nearly two-thirds of Turkey’s imported weapons of war, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

“If you go back over the last few decades, Turkey is one of the major importers of U.S. weapons,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. “A huge proportion of their arsenal comes from the United States.”

But efforts in both the House and Senate to curtail arms sales to Turkey, which hosts several key U.S. military bases, have failed to gain much traction in a Congress where most lawmakers have significant numbers of defense contractors in their home states.

The peril of pushing too hard on placing U.S. weapons off limits to Turkey is that Turkey may go shopping elsewhere, says Philip Gordon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“If the current trends continue — more sanctions or an absolute ban on weapons sales to Turkey — then Turkey pivots and buys all of its arms from Russia and other suppliers,” says Gordon, who oversaw Turkish affairs in the Obama White House. “And then the strategic relationship within NATO is really broken.”

Turkey’s relationship with Congress may already be broken. Not so much, though, at the Trump White House.

Key Syrian White Helmets Backer Found Dead in Istanbul

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

 

Key Syrian White Helmets Backer Found Dead in Istanbul

Monday, 11 November, 2019 – 13:00
James Le Mesurier. (AFP file photo)
Asharq Al-Awsat
The founder of an organization that trained the Syrian “White Helmets” emergency response group has died in Istanbul.

Anadolu Agency said James Le Mesurier’s body was found early Monday near his home in Istanbul’s Beyoglu district by worshippers on their way to a mosque to pray.

An investigation has been launched into his death, Anadolu said, adding that police believe he may have fallen to his death.

A security source told Reuters it was believed that Le Mesurier had fallen from the balcony of his home office and his death was being treated as a suspected suicide. A third person, a diplomat, said the circumstances around his death were unclear.

Police had established that no one had entered or left his home at the time of his death, Anadolu reported.

The White Helmets, known officially as Syria Civil Defense, have been credited with saving thousands of people in opposition-held areas during years of bombing by Syrian regime and Russian forces in the country’s war.

Mayday Rescue, a not-for-profit organisation, began its operations in 2014 and established an office in Istanbul in 2015 to support its Syria project. Its projects have been funded by the United Nations and various governments, its website said.

Mayday Rescue did not immediately respond to an emailed Reuters query about Le Mesurier.

A former British army officer, Le Mesurier was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth in 2016 for services to Syria Civil Defense and the protection of civilians in Syria.

Turkish Army Vehicle Kills Protester in North Eastern Syria

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

 

Turkish Army Vehicle Kills Protester in North Eastern Syria

Friday, 8 November, 2019 – 12:15
Turkish army armoured vehicles arrive near the Turkish town of Idil at the Turkey-Syria border before Turkish and Russian troops conduct their third joint patrols in northeast Syria, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. AP
Asharq Al-Awsat
A Kurdish group and a Syria war monitor said on Friday that a protester has been killed after he was run over by Turkish military vehicle.

Mustafa Bali, spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said the man was killed in northeastern Syria.

The man was run over in the village of Sarmasakh near the border by a Turkish vehicle during a joint patrol with Russia, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights .

The Observatory said the man died in the hospital in the town of Derik from internal bleeding and broken bones, the Associated Press reported.

The man was among residents who pelted with shoes and stones Turkish and Russian troops who were conducting their third joint patrol in northeastern Syria, under a cease-fire deal brokered by Moscow that forced Kurdish fighters to withdraw from areas bordering Turkey.

Saudi: Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

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

 

Turkey to Send Captured ISIS Fighters to Home Countries

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:45
Turkish military vehicles arrive at the Turkish-Syrian border before a joint Turkish-Russian patrol in northeast Syria, near the Turkish border town of Kiziltepe, Turkey, November 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Turkey announced Saturday that it would send captured ISIS members back to their home countries, complaining about European inaction on the matter.

“That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible,” Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said of Europe leaving Turkey to deal with the prisoners alone.

“We will send the captured ISIS members to their countries,” he told reporters.

Turkey has captured some escaped ISIS members in northeastern Syria over the last month after it launched a military incursion there.

Ankara launched its offensive against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units following President Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 US troops from northern Syria in early October. The YPG helped the United States defeat ISIS in Syria.

Last week, Ankara and Moscow agreed to remove the Kurdish fighters to a depth of at least 30 km south of the border.

Under the deal, Turkish and Russian troops in armored vehicles held their first joint ground patrols in northeast Syria on Friday.

Saudi: 6 Civilians Killed in Russian Airstrike in Idlib

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

 

6 Civilians Killed in Russian Airstrike in Idlib

Saturday, 2 November, 2019 – 12:15
FILE PHOTO: Russian and Syrian national flags flutter on military vehicles near Manbij, Syria, October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo
Asharq Al-Awsat
A Russian air strike killed on Saturday six civilians including a child in the embattled opposition bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The strike hit the village of Jaballa in the south of the Idlib region, taking the lives of all six from the same family, it said.

The monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria, says it determines who carries out an air strike according to flight patterns, as well as aircraft and ammunition involved.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said it was the bloodiest such Russian air raid in two months since Moscow announced a truce for the surrounding area on August 31.

Since then, eight other civilians have been killed in Russian air strikes on different dates in the region, he said.

Bashar al-Assad’s forces launched a devastating military campaign against Idlib in April, killing around 1,000 civilians and forcing more than 400,000 people to flee their homes.

But a ceasefire announced by the regime’s major backer Moscow has largely held since late August, though the Observatory says skirmishes persist.

Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us’—“Trump Has No Honor”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Syrian Kurds: ‘The world has closed its eyes on us’

Displaced Syrian man and children in Hasakeh, north-east Syria (24/10/19)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gains made by Kurds over the years have been rolled back in a matter of days

On our way to Qamishli, the largest Kurdish city in northern Syria, we see a US military convoy escorted by fighter jets heading east towards the Iraqi border. They are leaving the Kurdish region.

The first time I saw an American in Syria was in 2016. He was part of US special forces, sent to support the Kurds fighting the Islamic State (IS) group. Locals were excited to see them arriving.

But it was in stark contrast this time around. Now you could see the fear and anxiety in the faces of onlookers.

We were only a few kilometers from the Turkish border as one of the jets circled overhead, leaving a trail of white smoke as it passed in and out of Turkish airspace.

One of our guides sighed. “Trump bi namoose,” he said to me in Kurdish. “Trump has no honor.”

Media caption Trump on Syria: “Let someone else fight over this long, blood-stained sand.”

The Kurds have every reason to be worried. On one side they face neighboring Turkey, on the other, Syrian government forces.

Now the US is leaving, Kurds here are convinced they have no friends other than the mountains they inhabit.

‘Trump sold us’

From the moment we arrived in Qamishli, ordinary Kurds from baker to waiter asked, “why did Trump sell us out?” This is a traditional society that prides itself on a code of honour and does not understand why it has effectively been cut loose.

“America stabbed us in the back… Trump sold us… we were betrayed,” we heard, again and again.

Kurdish woman at funeral of SDF fighters in Ras al-Ain (24/10/19)Image copyright AFP
Image caption Syrian Kurds have died in Turkey’s offensive, for which many say the US gave a green light

Qamishli ‘s squares and electricity poles are decorated with the pictures of the fallen – men and women killed in the war against IS.

Every day there are funerals somewhere in this tiny region. It has been this way since IS attacked the Kurds in 2014. But now the victims are those who have been killed since Turkish and allied forces launched their cross-border attack earlier this month.

At the funerals, many mourners hide their tears. Instead they lead the caskets to graveyards with dances and chants.

At one such ceremony, for a fallen fighter of the Kurdish YPG, a tall man in his 60’s approaches me and calmly says: “Erdogan doesn’t like the Kurds. He wants us to leave,” referring to the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who regards the YPG as terrorists.

The Kurds lost 11,000 men and women battling against IS. “The fight wasn’t ours only, we fought on behalf of humanity,” the man says. “Where is the international community? Why don’t they stop Erdogan?”

‘What’s the point?’

In a bakery sits a pile of bread, baked for fighters on the front line. Bahouz, a 16-year-old boy who is cutting dough, asks me my opinion of Americans and Europeans.

“Do you think they will stop Erdogan from massacring us?” An older boy shouts: “Trump sold us – oil is more important than our lives.”

Map showing Turkey and Russia's deal on north-east Syria (23 October 2019)
Presentational white space

The young boys are clearly frightened. They know if the pro-Turkish Islamist militias arrive here, they would be prime targets. Already videos have emerged apparently showing Turkish-backed militias shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting handcuffed young men just like them.

At a hospital treating wounded YPG fighters, a doctor, Rojda, runs from one operating theatre to another. Rojda, a petite woman in her 30s, is also the director of the facility.

“What’s the point of filming?” she asks wearily. “Don’t waste your time. The world has closed its eyes on us.”

Media caption“We were by the gate when a shell hit”

One of the patients I meet there is 23-year-old Jiyan. She sits on her bed, staring into the distance. There are dark circles around her eyes. Her head has been surgically pinned, her skull fractured; a hand and both legs are injured.

She laughs derisively. “I survived fighting IS in Kobane, Manbij, and Raqqa, but it was the Turks who almost killed me!”

Jiyan was in Ras al-Ain when Turkey attacked the border town. Her unit came under extensive Turkish artillery and bombardment.

“We put up a good fight against Turkish-backed thugs, but we couldn’t match Turkish firepower,” she tells me, adding: “I lost many friends.”

‘They are coming for us’

On our way out of Syria, I meet Kino Gabriel, spokesperson for the SDF, the Kurdish-led alliance of militias.

Media captionCivilians pelt US vehicles with potatoes

A tall man with a big smile, he is the founder of the Christian Syriac Military Council, part of the SDF. He avoids criticising President Trump, hoping, it seems, that the US will change course and come back to the SDF’s aid.

“Those jihadists backed by Turkey are not only coming for our land, they see us as infidels. They are coming for us,” he says.

US soldier with YPJ insignia on his sleeve in Tal Tamr, northern Syria (20/10/19)Image copyrightAFP
Image captionA US soldier pictured with the insignia of the Kurdish YPJ militia on his sleeve

As US troops withdrew from Qamishli last week on Donald Trump’s orders, one picture in particular – of a US soldier in his armoured vehicle wearing YPJ (the Kurdish women’s fighting force) insignia on his sleeve – resonated with the Kurdish allies they were leaving in haste.

“The American soldiers are just like us – shocked and disappointed with this political decision,” Kino Gabriel says. “But it is not their fault. We honour their sacrifices too.”

U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields

(This article is courtesy of NPR news)
(THIS IS LOGICAL FOR OUR PRESIDENT, PUT AMERICAN TROOPS LIVES IN DANGER FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF PROTECTING OUR ENEMIES INCOME AND FUEL FOR THEIR WAR MACHINES TO USE AGAINST SYRIAN CIVILIANS.)(oped: oldpoet56)

Some U.S. Troops May Remain In Northeast Syria To Protect Oil Fields

U.S. military vehicles drive on a road in the town of Tal Tamr on Sunday after pulling out of a base in northern Syria. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says some troops may remain in northeast Syria to secure oil fields.

Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. may now keep some troops in northeast Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday. It is the latest in a series of consequential pivots the Trump administration has made in its Syria policy.

Esper said the troops are needed to secure oil fields from falling into the hands of ISIS and profiting from them, The Associated Press reports. But most recently it was Russian mercenaries, not ISIS fighters, who tried to seize the oil fields and who were repulsed by U.S. airstrikes, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports.

Despite President Trump’s earlier announcements that ISIS is defeated and that he is bringing the troops home rather than being entangled in “endless wars,” the U.S. forces are not heading immediately for home. Instead, they’re being moved to western Iraq to continue to fight ISIS there, Esper said during his overseas trip to Afghanistan and other countries.

Shortly after Esper spoke, President Trump acknowledged during a Cabinet meeting that the troops would be deployed to different areas first — but he added they would then return to the U.S.

“Well, they’re going to be sent initially to different parts, a different method,” Trump said. “Ultimately, we’re bringing them home.”

According to a White House pool report, Trump said of America’s allies in Syria, “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”

U.S. forces could be seen withdrawing on Monday. They left a base in Turkey and rolled into the Iraqi Kurdish city of Erbil, NPR’s Jane Arraf reports. Thousands of refugees are also flooding across the border into Iraq, doubtful that the ceasefire the U.S. brokered with Turkey last week will hold, and unsure of what will happen next.

As U.S. forces left the northeastern city Syrian of Qamishli, residents of the majority Kurdish city pelted American military vehicles with potatoes, the AP reported. “Like rats, America is running away,” a man was quoted shouting in Arabic.

There has been widespread criticism of President Trump’s decision two weeks ago to pull troops from northeast Syria, which cleared the way for Turkey to assault the Kurds, key allies with the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, says 120 civilians have been killed since Turkey began the operation it calls “Peace Spring” on Oct. 9. The group says 300,000 people have been displaced by the violence.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said on Monday that Turkish-aligned forces had violated the terms of the ceasefire. The SDF said violent clashes had broken out, with casualties among both the SDF and the Turkish-backed forces.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was in Jordan on Sunday, leading a delegation meeting with leaders including Jordan’s King Abdullah II to discuss the crisis in Syria.

With the U.S. pulling out its troops, Kurdish commander Mazlum Kobani is predicting his people will be slaughtered.

“There will be ethnic cleansing of the Kurdish people from Syria, and the American administration will be responsible for it,” he told The New York Times. He said the U.S. should work “to limit the damage of this past decision and preserve the areas we liberated together.”

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Trump is hanging Israel and Netanyahu out to dry

David A. Andelman, executive director of The RedLines Project, is a contributor to CNN, where his columns won the Deadline Club Award for Best Opinion Writing. Author of “A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today,” he was formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and CBS News. Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)With a single stroke, President Donald Trump has effectively brought a newly resurgent and potent triad—Syria, Russia and Iran—to the very doorstep of their declared enemy, Israel, and given aid and comfort to Israel’s longtime and persistent foe, Hezbollah, in Lebanon.

David Andelman

The ceasefire and agreement with Turkey that Trump vaunted Thursday as “a great day for civilization,” had already been demonstrated to be a potentially epic challenge to one corner of the world—Israel. It was a reality only highlighted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo breaking off from Vice President Pence’s group in Ankara and taking a plane directly to Jerusalem to reassure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Friday morning.
Suddenly, with not even a token American force remaining to monitor or check military activities of Russia, Iran or the Syrian army main force of President Bashar al-Assad, the entire map of the Middle East was being redrawn, and Israel left with few viable defenders. When the United States had even a minimal military presence in Syria, it was able to act as some restraint on aid that Iran was seeking to channel to this terrorist forcewhich continues to operate out of Lebanon, targeting Israel at every opportunity.
In late August, anti-tank rocket attacks launched from Lebanon into northern Israel by Hezbollah led to the Israeli army responding with attacks on targets in southern Lebanon. Such effective shadow-boxing had been held in check by the apparent ability of Israel to interdict Iranian efforts to supply Hezbollah with arms and munitions through Syria. Now, with Syria reclaiming a large swath of the northeastern stretch of its country that had been held by the Kurds and their American allies, and with Russian forces moving as a backstop into the vacuum left by the US departure, Israeli efforts could become exponentially more complicated.
At the same time, there is ever more leeway now for Syria, Russia and Iran to work their malevolence on a Lebanese government that is striving desperately to carve a middle road in the region. Hezbollah and Iran share a common religion—Shiite Islam—which has only opened up a host of problems for Hezbollah’s principal host, Lebanon, as it tries to remain reasonably neutral in the Middle East and avoid a return to the decades of bloodshed during its civil wars of the 1980s. Hezbollah would like nothing better than a destabilized Lebanon bordering Israel’s northern frontier.
“Americans can’t be trusted at all since they break promise with anyone who depends on them,” said Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, in a speech to his followers in Beirut on Wednesday, adding that the Kurds’ “fate awaits anyone who trusts Washington.”
Trump’s new bond with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan—”a tough guy who deserves respect” and “my friend” as Trump described him after Wednesday’s truce talks in Ankara, is also likely to have done little to reassure Israel.
Turkey, which has moved into northern Syria with some impunity has demonstrated that it is no friend of Israel. Erdogan, accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, has called it “a terrorist state.” Until now, it has been possible for Israel largely to ignore Turkey’s impact on the Middle East, and its efforts of rapprochement with both Russia and Iran. But that may no longer be possible. On Tuesday, Erdogan is planning to travel to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American withdrawal and Wednesday’s ceasefire can have few positive results for Israel, where Trump’s actions “have stirred discomfort within Netanyahu’s conservative cabinet,” according to Israeli media reports. Amos Harel, military correspondent for the liberal Haaretz daily, said Trump’s moves have “forced Israel to rethink its Middle East strategy.” After his session with Pompeo, Netanyahu was only somewhat more circumspect. “We hope things will turn out for the best,” he told reporters. Indeed, Netanyahu is facing a Wednesday deadline to cobble together a new coalition government after the recent national elections and has still not managed to do so.
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In short, any number of nations in the region are beginning a frantic reassessment of just what this new map of the Middle East promises—beyond the immediate prospects of a new round of chaos and destruction, with the United States on the sidelines. Somehow Washington must find a way to channel to players like Israel and Lebanon military aid and diplomatic reassurance that can help neutralize an increasingly dangerous situation.

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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