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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "US"

Kurds throw potatoes at U.S. convoy leaving northern Syria

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I can’t believe you-know-who hasn’t already tweeted out these clips this morning calling the Kurds “INGRATES!”

He’ll get around to it eventually. He’s probably busy cooking up something good about Mitt Romney’s secret Twitter feed.

The bad news is that the Kurds left behind in northern Syria will shortly be fed into Erdogan’s meat grinder unless Putin comes up with a way to restrain him in their summit tomorrow. The good news is that a few hundred U.S. troops will remain in parts of Syria to secure something more precious than human life — sweet, sweet oil:

President Trump is leaning in favor of a new Pentagon plan to keep a small contingent of American troops in eastern Syria, perhaps numbering about 200, to combat the Islamic State and block the advance of Syrian government and Russian forces into the region’s coveted oil fields, a senior administration official said on Sunday…

The senior administration official said it was highly likely that troops would be kept along the Iraqi border area — away from the cease-fire zone that Vice President Mike Pence negotiated with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey last week. The main goal would be to prevent the Islamic State from re-establishing all or parts of its religious state, or caliphate, in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

A side benefit would be helping the Kurds keep control of oil fields in the east, the official said.

So that’s what he meant by those mysterious “we have secured the oil” comments over the past few days. Whatever the reason, it’s at least some comfort that Americans will remain in place to snuff out the ISIS brush fires that’ll start now that the Kurds aren’t around in the north.

It sounds like the Kurds won’t let their hard feelings about the American pullout in the north stop them from continuing to partner with American troops in the east. They need those oil fields, after all, and it’d be foolish to reject U.S. help out of pride at a moment when it’s unclear how far Erdogan — or Assad, or Russia, or ISIS — might try to advance into Kurdish territory. Even a weak American commitment is worth something in deterrence, especially with Trump under pressure from his own party not to retreat further. If Kurdish forces rejected his offer of help in the east, it’d be a perfect pretext for him to withdraw from Syria entirely:

The commander of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, Mazlum Kobani, whose fighters switched sides to join Syrian government forces after Mr. Trump announced the American withdrawal, said on Saturday that despite the Turkish offensive, his troops had resumed counterterrorism operations near Deir al-Zour.

American officials widely interpreted the comments as a signal to Washington that the Syrian Kurds were still willing to fight in partnership with the United States against the Islamic State in eastern Syria, despite their abandonment in other parts of the country.

A Kurdish official told the AP that Kurdish forces are complying with Trump’s ceasefire with Erdogan by withdrawing from the buffer zone near the border. The issue for the Kurds isn’t keeping their *troops* in place, it’s keeping Kurdish *civilians* who live in the area in place. Military withdrawal is one thing, ethnic cleansing is another. The commander of Kurdish forces reportedly emphasized this to Lindsey Graham in a call on Friday:

Are we headed towards a proposal for international peacekeepers in the border buffer zone? The Kurds might agree to that. Trump certainly would agree to it, so long as those peacekeepers aren’t American. Would Erdogan agree? How about Putin? Maybe Russian soldiers can walk the beat as Erdogan resettles millions of Syrian refugees in the area and ethnic tensions with the Kurds gradually begin to rise.

The post Kurds throw potatoes at U.S. convoy leaving northern Syria appeared first on Hot Air.

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U.S. Army officer: Turkish forces deliberately targeted us in northern Syria

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This isn’t even the grimmest news out of northern Syria today. Visit any news site this afternoon and you’re apt to find reports of a mass jailbreak at a prison where hundreds of ISIS sympathizers were detained or read accounts of Turkish-backed “militias” committing atrocities against captured Kurds. One particularly grisly story involves a Kurdish political leader named Hevrin Khalef. I’ll let you google her to find out what happened, but be warned before you click that there may be graphic photos at the link.

Newsweek reported on Friday that Turkish artillery shells had landed suspiciously close to a group of U.S. troops stationed near the town of Kobane. Why suspicious? Because, as a U.S. “ally,” Turkey had been told exactly where American troops are based in northern Syria. We want to avoid friendly-fire incidents so we give them our positions and tell them to steer clear.

So how’d a bunch of Turkish shells end up “bracketing” the American contingent in Kobane?

One Army officer who has deployed to northeastern Syria and has knowledge of the situation said that multiple rounds of 155 mm fire were launched from Turkey’s side of the border and that they had a “bracketing effect” in which shells landed on both sides of the U.S. outpost.

“That’s an area weapon,” the officer said, noting its explosive effects. “That’s not something we ever would have done to a partner force.”

The officer said Turkey knew there were Americans on the hill and that it had to be deliberate. The service members vacated the outpost after the incident but returned Saturday, according to a U.S. official and images circulating on social media.

“We had been there for months, and it is the most clearly defined position in that entire area,” the officer said.

The Americans stationed at the outpost surely would have recognized that they were being targeted, said Ruben Gallego, an Iraq war vet turned Democratic member of Congress. A U.S. defense official asked about the incident told WaPo that the Turkish shelling was certainly “reckless” and possibly intentional, and acknowledged that they “obviously” were told by the Pentagon beforehand that American soldiers were there. That’s not the only pressure the Turks are putting on U.S. troops in the region either:

U.S. troops pulled out from their base in the town [of Ain Issa], as Turkish-backed Syrian rebels consolidated their hold over a vital highway nearby, cutting the main U.S. supply route into Syria and isolating troops based further west

Turkish-backed rebels have set up checkpoints on the highway near Ain Issa, cutting off the U.S. troops in bases to the west, in the Syrian cities of Manbij and Kobane. Those troops came under Turkish artillery fire Friday night in what some U.S. soldiers suspect was a deliberate attempt to drive them away from the bulk of the U.S. forces farther east, Kurdish and U.S. officials said.

So that explains the shelling. The Turks were deliberately trying to divide U.S. forces, increasing the pressure on Trump to flee the area before any Americans end up “accidentally” isolated and/or killed. Looks like the tactic worked: SecDef Mark Esper announced this morning that all 1,000 American troops based in northern Syria will be withdrawing, leaving the Turks free to pursue their goal of massacring the Kurds without having to worry about any U.S. soldiers wandering into the line of fire.

According to one Kurdish official, the ISIS flag has already been raised in the countryside between Ain Issa and the Turkish border. Jake Tapper puts it bluntly:

Esper acknowledged this morning that he’s also heard reports that Turkish forces or their proxies or both are committing war crimes. Fox News hears the same thing:

Trump’s response to all of this has been to anxiously tweet out every conceivably line of spin in quick succession and hope something sticks. There’s the “war is bad but at least our guys are safe” take:

There’s the “who cares?” take:

And there’s the “we might act if this keeps up” take:

If Obama had let Erdogan strong-arm him into handing over the Kurds to Turkey and then followed that up by ordering a full retreat after the Turks shelled American troops, citizen Trump would have tweeted that not only is he the weakest man we’ve ever had as president, he may be the weakest man the country’s ever produced. He’d already be accusing Obama — accurately — of having midwifed the rebirth of ISIS, with the U.S. destined to get sucked into another “endless war” a few years from now when American troops are needed to beat back ISIS’s newly expanding caliphate. The Kurds won’t be helping next time either; given the hard lesson they’re learning right now, their best bet after ISIS regroups will be to try to reach an accommodation with the jihadis. If the White House is worried about ISIS targeting the west, it’ll have to deal with the problem directly next time.

But that’s okay. Trump might be out of office by then. It’ll be the next president’s problem, with citizen Trump tweeting disingenuously from the sidelines that he had ISIS completely defeated until President Warren’s “weakness” allowed them to rebuild. Most of his fans will even believe it. Think of this as the foreign policy equivalent of one of his corporate bankruptcies: He tried something, it didn’t work out, and now a bunch of other people will be stuck cleaning it up. He’ll be fine.

Here he is on Friday being asked why, if he’s all about “ending endless wars,” he’s sending 1,800 American troops to Saudi Arabia while he retreats in Syria. Simple answer: Saudi Arabia is willing to cut us a check. If the Kurds want to make us an offer, maybe our mercenary army will reconsider its retreat. You know the Marine Corps motto: “How much?”

The post U.S. Army officer: Turkish forces deliberately targeted us in northern Syria appeared first on Hot Air.

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U.S. Ambassador to UK: Trump-Johnson will get along great

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The United States is hoping the relationship between President Donald Trump and new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will end up being full of wine, roses, and good feelings. US Ambassador Woody Johnson told British media today he’s confident things will go alright. BBC has a write up of yesterday’s interviews.

Woody Johnson told Radio 4’s Today his job was to focus on the “things we agree on”.

“We’re going to have bumps in the road, no question, but we are two great countries,” he said.

“If we look forward optimistically between our two countries, we’re going to lift all the people in this country – to independence and all the things you voted for in the referendum.”

“I think that’s what the president wants and what your new prime minister wants too,” he added…

“The new relationship between your new prime minister and our president… it’s going to be sensational,” he said. “Their leadership has a lot in common. Both have their own style but similarities – a clear vision of what they want to accomplish.”

He said the UK would be at the “front of the line” for a trade deal once Brexit had happened and it was “not imperative” for the UK to leave the EU with an agreement to make progress.

“The president is going to try and move the ball forwards – the UK is our most important ally in security and prosperity. He knows that.”

It’s not surprising to see all the nice comments between two countries who have traditionally been allies over the course of history.

A part of the relationship will be determined on who exactly the new UK Ambassador to the United States will end up being after the situation involving Sir Kim Darroch (which really wasn’t that big of a deal since American ambassadors have probably made similar comments about other world leaders). Boris Johnson seemed to cozy up to Trump a bit by not saying if he’d keep Darroch on as ambassador during a debate earlier this month – although he also noted Darroch shouldn’t have been personally attacked by Trump.

The first big test will probably end up being whatever free trade agreement the US and UK end up trying to negotiate. It would be amazing if the two nations just said to businesses, “Do what you like,” without engaging in any sort of tariff or treaty negotiations. That would send a message to the world about the notion taxes on foreign good weren’t needed. Other countries might actually decide to go along with the idea, as well. Not that it’s going to happen because the government needs to get a piece of whatever pie is out there regardless of cost.

More of this will probably be figured out whenever Trump and Johnson hold their first meeting – via telephone or face-to-face. But Johnson will be busy handling European relations first. Via the BBC:

No 10 confirmed that Mr Johnson had spoken to the French President Emmanuel Macron over the phone on Thursday and they had discussed Brexit.

A German government spokesperson also said the PM had discussed Brexit with Chancellor Angela Merkel during a phone call on Friday.

“The chancellor has invited the prime minister to visit Berlin for an early first visit,” they added.

Gotta get Brexit figured out first, then go from there.

The post U.S. Ambassador to UK: Trump-Johnson will get along great appeared first on Hot Air.

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