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U.S. Officials Are Worried About Turkish Foray Into Syria

A major incursion could prompt Trump administration to withdraw troops, essentially ending fight against Islamic State in Syria

U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Turkey soon will mount a major incursion into northern Syria and trigger a clash with Kurdish fighters, a move likely to prompt the Trump administration to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria to avoid a conflict.

A U.S. pullout would essentially end the fight against Islamic State in Syria, which U.S. officials still consider a viable terrorist network capable of staging attacks against the U.S. and its allies and interests despite having lost its so-called caliphate.

Turkey wants to resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey in Syrian border towns that would be cleared of Kurdish forces known as the YPG, a group Turkey considers to be a terrorist affiliate of the Turkey-based PKK.

But while Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, views the Kurdish military organization as a terrorist group, U.S. officials credit Kurdish fighters with eliminating Islamic State’s territorial hold in Syria.

Washington has attempted to quell Turkish concerns by conducting joint military patrols in two Syrian cities and holding talks on Turkey’s request for a 300-mile safe zone along the border between the two countries.

Now, U.S. officials said this week that they see mounting evidence that Turkey is preparing to insert forces into northeastern Syria in the coming days or weeks, putting U.S. forces at potential risk.

“It’s a perfect storm, it’s really ugly. There may just be no choice but to leave,” one U.S. official said.

In Ankara, government officials said they were frustrated by the slow pace of joint efforts to create what they call safe areas for refugees in northeastern Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke about the issue with his Turkish counterpart, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Thursday.

The U.S. hasn’t formally warned Turkey about a possible withdrawal from Syria, one person familiar with the matter said. If the U.S. conveyed such a message, the person said, it would be interpreted as “a perception ploy,” a way to tell the Turks that they could be worse off dealing alone with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and its main backer, Russia.

Turkish officials didn’t respond to questions about their military plans. On Tuesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey told parliament’s opening session that his country had no choice but to act unilaterally to create a safe zone in northern Syria.

“We have not achieved any of the results we desired,” Mr. Erdogan said. “Turkey cannot lose even a single day on this issue. There is no other choice but to act on our own.”

YPG representatives declined to comment, and a spokesperson for the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition led by Kurdish fighters, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

U.S. attempts over the past year to elicit European interest in the Syrian refugee resettlement plan have fallen short, and talks between Washington and Ankara have dragged on.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu of Turkey said the U.S. wasn’t sincere about cooperating in northeastern Syria. “We think the process under way with the U.S. won’t take us to the point we want. Information coming from the field proves it,” the minister told Turkish television Wednesday.

Turkey could choose to insert a small number of forces, potentially drawing a muted Kurdish reaction. But if Turkey conducts a widespread incursion using heavy arms and forces, the U.S. might have no choice but to pull its more than 1,000 troops out of Syria to avoid a potential conflict with a NATO ally, officials said. The U.S. had more than 2,000 troops in Syria last year.

U.S. officials said they harbor deep misgivings about withdrawing troops from the area and leaving their close Kurdish allies to an uncertain fate, a move that would send a conflicting message about U.S. reliability to other current and prospective U.S. partners world-wide.

But President Trump, who now is facing an impeachment inquiry and is eager to demonstrate a foreign policy victory, has tried to disengage the U.S. from conflicts overseas, including in Syria. Last year, he called for a complete U.S. withdrawal from Syria, but ultimately reversed himself after a backlash by GOP allies and top military officials.

The problems associated with pulling U.S. support from Kurdish allies were among arguments against a full U.S. withdrawal last year. However, military officials said they have grown resigned to the situation, adding that an armed clash between Turkey and Kurdish forces would heighten prospects of a pullout.

The complex issues surrounding the U.S. presence in Syria will fall squarely on the Pentagon’s new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, who succeeded Marine Gen. Joe Dunford. Gen. Dunford served as the administration’s primary military contact with Ankara.

In calls and visits with Turkish leaders, Gen. Dunford, who stepped down Monday, repeatedly urged Turkey to exercise restraint, defense officials said. Gen. Dunford last spoke to his Turkish counterpart two weeks ago, according to Joint Staff officials.

U.S. officials have grown alarmed about Ankara’s moves in part because they worry Turkey won’t provide an adequate notice that it is moving in, one official said. Any warning could come less than 48 hours before Turkey takes action.“It seems more and more likely based on the actions they are taking in southern Turkey,” said one U.S. official, referring to movements of equipment and personnel.

Turkey has long complained about the buildup of Kurdish forces and influence along its southern border, calling it a direct threat. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has entered Syria twice in a bid to stop Kurdish expansion.

In response, U.S. officials had set up joint U.S.-Turkish patrols to cool tensions. Last year, in the Syrian city of Manbij, U.S. and Turkish forces conducted joint patrols after Turkey threatened to launch an offensive against Kurds based at the border. Since September, U.S. and Turkish forces have conducted joint patrols in the Syrian city of Tal Abayd.

“The U.S.’s current position in northeast Syria is not tenable over the long term,” said Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. “The U.S. does not have enough forces in Syria to prevent the Turks from crossing the border and will not fight Turkey, a NATO ally, if that occurs.”

The Wall Street Journal

Warning

Exercise increased caution when traveling to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

• Areas near the Syrian and Iraqi borders due to terrorism. (Level 4)

Reconsider travel to:

• Batman, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Siirt, Sirnak, Tunceli, and Van (Level 3)

More: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Turkey.html

Former official of Turkey’s ruling party pictured brandishing severed head in Syria

A Turkish Islamist militant who appeared in a video brandishing a decapitated head turned out to be an official of the youth branch of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) before joining the jihadist cause in Syria.

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Emrah Çelik (born April 5, 1987), a member of the AKP youth branch in the Kapaklı district of northwestern Tekirdağ province, was seen posing in both a video and still shots while holding a severed head in his hand. The recording shows him saying that the victory belongs to Islamist jihadists and that whoever takes on Islam’s soldiers would share the same fate as the severed head, which he said belonged to a soldier in the Syrian regime forces. In the end he says victory belongs to Islam while raising a single index finger, similar to a gesture used by militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

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Emrah Çelik poses with a severed head, holding an index finger in the air.


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Çelik served as the deputy chairman of the AKP youth branch in a district located on the European side of Turkey before joining jihadist groups fighting in the Turkmen area of northern Syria, on October 10, 2015. He is originally from the eastern province Erzincan but maintains a residence in Tekirdağ. Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor’s Office records show he is still a member of the AKP.

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AKP membership registry record at the Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

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According to his own statement Çelik served in the 2nd Coastal Division stationed in the Turkmen mountains and served under the command of Bashar Molla. The division is the main Turkmen rebel group operating in the Latakia Governorate and gained notoriety when they killed a Russian SU-24 fighter jet pilot who was ejected from his aircraft when it was shot down by Turkey on the Syrian border on November 24, 2015. In his statement Çelik said two choppers were deployed by Russia within 10 minutes of the downing of the plane to rescue the pilots but that it was too late as the division had already captured them.


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It appears he had been traveling back and forth to Syria with no problems at the border as the Turkmen division was armed, trained and supported by Turkey. During one of his visits to Turkey he gave an interview to a local daily in his hometown, on November 18, 2018, and described Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a leader who fights for the Islamic cause. “Whoever is a friend to our President Erdoğan is a friend of ours, and whoever is an enemy of his is also enemy of ours,” he said, in an oblique reference to his hostility towards the Gülen movement, an outspoken critic of the Erdoğan regime due to its aiding and arming jihadist groups in Syria. “We are ready to die for the cause of our president,” Çelik said, adding that he believed he had been fighting in Syria against all infidel states.

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Çelik (R) posing next to Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu.

Çelik was photographed posing next to Turkey’s interior minister, Süleyman Soylu, as well as Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop. When the pictures were circulated on social media, he admitted that he was the man in the photo posing with Soylu and was very proud of it. In some pictures Çelik was also seen making the Rabia sign, a campaign symbol for President Erdoğan, who borrowed the gesture from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. He was claimed to be affiliated with the al-Nusra Front, although that claim was never verified. He and his comrades joined the Turkish military’s offensive in Syria along with Free Syrian Army fighters.

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Parliament Speaker Mustafa Şentop standing next to Çelik (L).

In Syria he was embedded with a unit led by another Turkish militant, Alparslan Çelik, the alleged killer of one of the pilots of the downed Russian SU-24 jet who died in machine gun fire from the ground after ejecting from the plane. Alparslan defended the murder of the pilot in a video, saying he had dropped bombs on Turkmens and that retaliation was the right thing to do. Alparslan was charged with firearms violations in a gang-related crime in Turkey and sentenced to five years in May 2017. His case is still pending on appeal.

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Emrah Çelik served in Syria under the command of Alparslan Çelik (L), the alleged killer of one of the pilots of the downed Russian SU-24 jet. They are seen posing together here.

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Emrah Çelik took part in the Turkish army’s military incursion into Syria.


Nordic Monitor

AMED

„Hey wax li min, wax! Ev çi dinya ye?
Kurdistan bin destê dijmana ye,
Mal û milkê min ji xelkê re maye.
Bextê dinyayê îro nemaye.“

„Ach her je, ach!
Was ist das bloß für eine Welt?
Kurdistan liegt in den Händen der Feinde,
Mein Haus und Eigentum gehört nun anderen.
Die Welt hat heute kein Erbahmen.“

Diese kurdische Mutter protestierte heute in Amed gegen die Absetzung der Oberbürgermeister von Amed, Mêrdîn und Wan und gegen die Inhaftierungen von über 400 HDP-Politiker*innen. Das Lied von Aram Tigran ist mehrere Jahrzehnte alt und immer noch aktuell.


MemeSopotamia

Amed, Mardin and Van municipalities seized by the AKP

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Co-mayors of Amed, Mardin and Van municipalities were removed from office and the municipalities were placed under police blockade.

Turkish Ministry of Interior has announced removing HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) Amed Metropolitan Municipality Co-mayor Selçuk Mızraklı, Mardin Metropolitan Municipality Co-mayor Ahmet Türk and Van Metropolitan Municipality Co-mayor Bedia Özgökçe Ertan.

Following the removal of the co-mayors, police forces laid a siege on the buildings of all the three municipalities.

Police forces broke the doors of Amed Municipality to forcibly get in the building at 6 am this morning.

Co-mayor Mızraklı said he has not received any notification regarding his removal, adding; “We are facing an unlawful situation. Nobody living in Turkey can consider himself to be living under the umbrella of law. This attitude developed against HDP municipalities should be seen as aimed at the democratic opposition. What is usurped is the people’s will.”

A number of police units participate in the raid on the municipalities of Amed and Van which have been surrounded with armored vehicles. A detailed search has been started in both municipalities and the police barricades that had been removed after the March 31 elections have been placed around the buildings again.

In the meantime, the Interior Ministry announced that provincial governors have been appointed in the place of the three mayors removed from office.

ANF

VIDEO


AMED

Bürgermeister von Amed, Mêrdîn und Wan abgesetzt

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Auf Betreiben des türkischen Innenministeriums sind die Oberbürgermeister*innen der nordkurdischen Metropolen Amed, Mêrdîn und Wan ihres Amtes enthoben worden.

Der türkische Staatspräsident und seine AKP gehen wieder gegen die kurdischen Stadtverwaltungen im Land vor. In den Metropolen Amed (Diyarbakir), Mêrdîn (Mardin) und Wan (Van) sind die HDP-Oberbürgermeister*innen Selçuk Mızraklı, Ahmet Türk und Bedia Özgökçe Ertan auf Betreiben des Innenministeriums ihres Amtes enthoben worden. Die Stadtverwaltungen wurden bereits unter die kommissarische Leitung von AKP-Bürokraten gestellt. Um 6 Uhr morgens hat die Polizei zudem in allen drei Städten die Rathäuser abgeriegelt und umstellt. Die rechtliche Grundlage für dieses Vorgehen ergebe sich aus Ermittlungen gegen die betroffenen Bürgermeister*innen wegen Terrorvorwürfen, heißt es in einer Stellungnahme des Innenministeriums.

Zahlreiche Festnahmen in Amed

In Amed ist es Sonntagnacht außerdem zu Razzien bei führenden Politikern der HDP und DBP gekommen. Bisher ist die Festnahme von 22 Betroffenen bekannt.

ANF

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AMED

Deutsche IS-Waisen aus Rojava zurückgeholt

Die Autonomieverwaltung Nord- und Ostsyriens hat heute vier IS-Waisen an Mitarbeiter des deutschen Konsulats im Nordirak übergeben. Die Übergabe fand am Grenzübergang Sêmalka statt.

Die Bundesregierung holt erstmals Kinder von deutschen Anhängern der Dschihadistenmiliz „Islamischer Staat“ (IS) nach Deutschland zurück. In Sêmalka an der syrisch-irakischen Staatsgrenze wurden am Montag vier Kinder an Mitarbeiter des deutschen Konsulats in Hewlêr (Erbil) übergeben. Die Kinder hatten nach dem Sieg über die Terrormiliz im Flüchtlingslager al-Hol gelebt. Es handele sich um drei Waisen und ein krankes Baby, sagte Abdulkarim Omar, Verantwortlicher für auswärtige Angelegenheiten der Selbstverwaltung, heute in Qamişlo. Nach der Übergabe bedankte sich die deutsche Delegation bei der Autonomieverwaltung und den Demokratischen Kräften Syriens (QSD) für die Zusammenarbeit.

Nach vorliegenden Informationen sollen die vier Kinder in Hewlêr zunächst medizinisch versorgt werden. Anschließend werden sie in Begleitung ihrer Großeltern nach Deutschland fliegen. Die Mutter des kranken Mädchens hält sich unterdessen weiterhin mit weiteren Kindern im Camp-Hol auf.

Deutlich mehr deutsche IS-Angehörige in Syrien als bisher angenommen

Über die Rückkehr von IS-Kindern wird in Deutschland seit Monaten diskutiert. Die Bundesregierung hatte zunächst immer wieder darauf verwiesen, dass es in Syrien derzeit keine deutsche diplomatische Vertretung gebe, die als Ansprechpartner fungieren könne.

Das Berliner Verwaltungsgericht hatte im Juli entschieden, dass die Regierung Angehörige von IS-Dschihadisten zurückholen müsse. In Flüchtlingslagern in Nord- und Ostsyrien halten sich nach Angaben des Rojava Information Center (RIC) aktuell deutlich mehr Angehörige von deutschen Islamisten auf als bislang bekannt. Mindestens 117 Kinder mit deutscher Staatsangehörigkeit sollen sich derzeit in den Camps der Selbstverwaltung befinden. Dazu kämen 21 Kinder von Deutschen, die aber keine deutsche Staatsangehörigkeit hätten, sowie Dutzende Frauen und 66 Männer, von denen mehr als 40 an Kriegsverbrechen beteiligt sein sollen. Die Bundesregierung sprach zuletzt von 68 Frauen aus Deutschland und mehr als 120 Kindern.

ANF

VIDEO

Ezidi Genocide – #SaveShingal

Der Palast am Tigris


Quelle: Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

• Eine langanhaltende Dürre hat einen bronzezeitlichen Palast im Norden des Irak freigelegt.

• Es handelt sich vermutlich um eine Stadtanlage der Mittani-Kultur. Dieses Reich stand in der Mitte des zweiten Jahrtausends vor Christus in seiner Blüte.

Gemessen an seiner Größe ist erstaunlich wenig über das Königreich Mittani bekannt: Während seiner Blütezeit Mitte des zweiten Jahrtausends vor Christus erstreckte sich sein Herrschaftsgebiet von der Mittelmeerküste über Syrien bis in den Norden des heutigen Irak. Akkadische Keilschrifttexte weisen darauf hin, dass die mittanischen Könige mit den ägyptischen Pharaonen und den Herrschern von Babylonien in Kontakt standen. So ist bekannt, dass Pharao Amenophis III. eine Tochter des mittanischen Herrschers Tuschratta heiratete. Dennoch haben nur wenige Überreste der Kultur überdauert, darunter einige Keramikgefäße. Das Reich von Mittani gilt als einer der am wenigsten erforschten Staaten des Altertums.

Ein neuer Fund am Ufer des Tigris könnte das ändern. Ausbleibende Regenfälle ließen den Wasserpegel des Mossul-Stausees im Nordirak vergangenes Jahr sinken, so kamen unerwartet Überreste einer prächtigen Stadtanlage zum Vorschein. Seitdem graben Archäologen der Universität Tübingen gemeinsam mit Experten der Kurdistan Archaeology Organization (KAO). Nun präsentierten die Forscher erste Ergebnisse.

Prächtige Wandmalereien, imposante Mauern

Bei der Anlage handle es sich um ein planmäßig angelegtes Gebäude mit massiven Innenmauern aus Lehmziegeln. Einige Wände seien bis zu zwei Meter dick, die gesamte Anlage sei bis zu sieben Meter hoch. „Wir haben zudem Reste von Wandmalereien in leuchtenden Rot- und Blautönen gefunden“, wird Ivana Puljiz vom Tübinger Institut für die Kulturen des Alten Orients in einer Mitteilung zitiert. Solche Wandmalereien seien vermutlich ein typisches Ausstattungsmerkmal von Palästen gewesen, hätten sich aber nur sehr selten erhalten. Deshalb sei die Entdeckung „eine archäologische Sensation“.

Schon die Lage der Festung weist darauf hin, wie wichtig der Ort einst war. Während des Altertums stand der Palast auf einer Anhöhe am Rand des Flusstals. Um das abschüssige Gelände abzustützen, legten die Mittaner eine gewaltige Terrassenmauer zum Tigris hin an. Die Festung thronte demnach über dem Flusstal.

Die Archäologen haben zudem zwei Nutzungsphasen ausgemacht, der Palast wurde also wahrscheinlich über einen langen Zeitraum bewohnt. Die Forscher vermuten, dass sich im Norden des Palasts eine größere Siedlung anschloss, die nun ebenfalls untersucht werden soll. Eine Schrifttafel enthielt den Hinweis, dass es sich bei dem Komplex um die Stadt Zachiku handeln könnte, die aus einer anderen Quelle bekannt ist. Nach ersten Schätzungen könnte sie bis zu 400 Jahre überdauert haben.

Rund 1350 vor Christus verschwand das Großreich Mittani von der Landkarte. Seine Gebiete fielen unter die Kontrolle mächtiger Nachbarn wie der Hethiter und Assyrer.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung

Trump: I Stopped Erdogan from Attacking Kurds in Syria, 6/29/19




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