|Cache||Mitch McConnell becomes most senior lawmaker in Trump's party to oppose withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria|
|Cache||Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says decision would allow Iran to get a greater foothold in region and become 'a nightmare' for the Jewish state|
Delil Souleiman/GettyLate Sunday night in Washington, the White House announced it was pulling U.S. troops out of northeast Syria to clear the way for a Turkish invasion. The Kurds there who led the fight on the ground that defeated the so-called Islamic State had seen President Donald Trump’s betrayal coming. But still they hoped it could be avoided. “Don’t let the Turks disrupt my wedding,” our translator texted in September prior to our arrival in the region. For more than a year, we have been visiting almost monthly to interview captured ISIS cadres held by the Kurdish and Arab troops of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as part of a project for the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism. Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackIn September, we saw the Turkish threat to invade at any moment was held off by tense U.S. negotiations in which the SDF made considerable concessions, allowing Turkey to patrol jointly a large swath of territory while agreeing to remove checkpoints and military positions farther back from the Turkish border.“They should put their patrols inside Turkish territory, and not enter Syria,” SDF leaders told us at the time, as they reluctantly acquiesced to U.S. demands.* * *BITTER FRIENDS* * *Many current and former White House advisors counseled against the kind of announcement made Sunday night. Defense Secretary James Mattis resigned last year over Trump’s threat to remove the few thousand U.S. troops in Syria, who not only served as advisors in the fight against ISIS, but as deterrence against Turkish operations east of the Euphrates River. In a particularly bitter post on Twitter, Bret McGurk, who served as the special U.S. presidential envoy for the fight against ISIS from 2015 to 2018, wrote, “Donald Trump is not a Commander-in-Chief. He makes impulsive decisions with no knowledge or deliberation. He sends military personnel into harm’s way with no backing. He blusters and then leaves our allies exposed when adversaries call his bluff or he confronts a hard phone call.”The U.S. military learned about the withdrawal plan only after Trump decided on it following his Sunday phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It has pulled out of two small observation posts in the security-mechanism zone near the Syria-Turkey border so far. But no further withdrawals are imminent, according to a knowledgeable source. The military, remembering Trump’s December order out of Syria and subsequent reversal, is waiting to learn if Trump will follow through with withdrawal this time.A recently departed senior Pentagon official considered the pullout a “blatant betrayal” of the U.S.’ Kurdish partners that gives “carte blanche to Erdogan” for a widely forecast bloodletting. “It’s going to be a massacre, that’s clear,” the ex-official told The Daily Beast. “It’s fundamentally wrong. They destroyed the Caliphate.”But the Kurds are not entirely defenseless. Military leaders of the dominant group, known as the YPG or People’s Protection Units (and their female YPJ partners), already were in overdrive in September, preparing for what they had long anticipated—a possible betrayal by their closest ally, the United States.* * *DIGGING IN* * *Alongside every major highway and criss-crossing the entire Northern Syria area, in fields, cities and towns, we saw digging for an extensive system of tunnels. “We’re ready either way,” the Kurdish leaders told us when we asked if they trusted the Americans to keep the Turks at bay.Kurds don’t have much, but their spirit of freedom and their desire to protect their hard-won territory and what they see as their incipient democracy was evident everywhere in September as the YPG troops prepared for battle with a much better equipped foe—the Turkish armed forces, the second biggest military in NATO. But nobody who fought ISIS in Syria in one vicious battle after another has forgotten that the huge Turkish army stood by and did nothing against the Islamic State as its killers carried out genocidal campaigns against Yazidis and Shiites, while abducting, torturing, ransoming or beheading Americans, Europeans, and Japanese, among others. Through all that, NATO ally Turkey was not interested in intervention. Far from it.That was until the White House statement Sunday night, up to which the U.S. military denied Turkey the ability to operate in airspace over SDF controlled territory, effectively making it more difficult to enter Northern Syria to conduct the “terrorist cleansing operation” that Turks insist upon. They already carried out one such operation in Afrin, west of the Euphrates, in January 2018, displacing Kurds and effectively taking over the area, using what Kurds claim are former ISIS cadres to fight for them.Turks view the Northern Syria area of Rojava, and the YPG dominated SDF, as controlled by Kurdish PKK terrorists operating under another name—wolves in sheep’s clothing. Indeed, in times past—until 1998—PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, lived freely in Syria and the father of the current Assad allowed him to train and equip his highly disciplined terrorist group for attacks into Turkey. It’s also true that over time, the various governing parties of Syria, Iraq and Iran have made use of PKK assaults on Turks as a way to exert pressure on Turkish politics. Turkey has suffered greatly from PKK terrorist attacks both inside Turkey and globally, and the PKK is clearly designated on the U.S. and EU’s list of terrorist organizations. In recent concessions to Turkey’s alarm over the SDF, a group they view as being in the hands of the PKK, the U.S. recently added additional individuals involved in the PKK to the U.S. State Department’s specially designated terrorist list. Turkey has also developed drones that fly over the Qandil mountains, in northern Iraq, making it easier to spot PKK movements and routinely send fighter jets to bomb them. In the case of northern Syria however, until President Trump’s announcement late Sunday night Washington time, the U.S. policy was to deny the Turks military incursions into territory where U.S. troops patrol and the U.S. military controls the airspace and claims by Turkey that the SDF is PKK have also been hotly disputed.While Turkey sees the SDF as dominated and led by a terrorist organization, the U.S. has a completely different perspective, viewing the YPG and SDF as valued allies in the fight against ISIS. Indeed, YPG and YPJ (Women’s People’s Protection Units) fighters lost over 1,000 lives fighting ISIS and it is common to see Kurdish men and women in Rojava on crutches, in wheelchairs and otherwise suffering from serious and lifelong injuries sustained in the battle to retake ISIS dominated areas, including Raqqa. While the rest of the world was silent, the YPG and YPJ can also take credit for going to the rescue of the Yazidis on Sinjar mountain in 2014, fighting to stop ISIS from carrying out a massive genocidal campaign in which ISIS cadres captured and enslaved countless Yazidi women, boys, and girls. The men were killed by ISIS, the boys killed or indoctrinated. The women and girls subsequently were raped and treated as chattel. But thousands were able to escape with YPG help.* * *THE PRISONERS* * *At present the SDF houses thousands of captured ISIS prisoners, holding the men in repurposed schools and prisons overflowing with former fighters and in camps similarly run at overcapacity for ISIS women and children. According to a March 2019 UN report, a total of 8,000 Islamic State fighters currently are held in SDF custody. In our recent visits to north and east Syria from May through August, relying on our primary intelligence sources, we were told that approximately 2,000 of these Islamic State prisoners were considered “foreign terrorist fighters” from North Africa, Europe, and the Americas.The same data was also corroborated in an August 2019 press release by the Office of the Spokesperson, Special Envoy of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Ambassador James Jeffrey. Just under a 1,000 of the prisoners are believed to be Europeans. ICSVE has interviewed approximately five percent of those detained. Most appear to have become totally disillusioned, are exhausted from battle and prison and say they want to lay down arms. While there is no specific deradicalization or rehabilitation program applied to them at present and we have been requested by the SDF and also agreed to build one, it’s safe to say the majority are spontaneously deradicalizing and simply want to return home to their former lives after facing a judicial process.The SDF prisons are overcrowded and the SDF leadership repeatedly has expressed a need to ICSVE researchers for technical assistance in dealing with terrorist prisoners and for financial assistance to build at least five prisons. Riots and attempted jail breaks have occurred in SDF prisons holding foreign fighters. Likewise, recent news reporting shows over-capacity has prisoners sleeping next to each other on their sides to be able to fit into small and overcrowded rooms. Three detention centers holding ISIS women and children also are administered by the SDF: Camps Hol, Ain Issa and Roj. According to a UN Report as of April 2019 an estimated 75,000 women and children were being held. Our data suggests that at least 60,000 are Syrians and Iraqis. At least 8,000 children and 4,000 wives of foreign fighters remain in the camp.Women and children live in tents in these camps which are hot in the summer, freezing cold during winter, and leak cold rainwater as well. Dust blows around the camps causing breathing difficulties for some. Women and children have died of typhus, tent fires, and other dangers in the camps. Recently vaccinations have been offered, but many mothers don’t trust the program and refrain from having their children vaccinated. The women cook for themselves and complain that the food provided them lacks nutritious fruits and vegetables. Schools are lacking as well.All of the camps housing women have suffered from ISIS enforcers still dedicated to the group who require the other women to continue to cover themselves and punish those who speak out against them. These women have attacked other women, set their tents on fire, stolen their possessions, attacked, bitten, beaten and stabbed guards and have murdered other women creating a sense of chaos, constant danger and oppression in the camps. Recently a gun fight broke out in Camp Hol, with one woman killed and seven wounded.Foreign fighters from about 60 countries remain in SDF custody. We have interviewed foreign fighters who are nationals of the United States, Canada, Australia, Trinidad and Tobago, the UK, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Dagestan, Turkey, Denmark, Russia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, Indonesia, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, Switzerland, Egypt, and Germany. * * *A TRIBUNAL?* * *While the SDF has struggled to contain the overflow of captured ISIS fighters, they have been frustrated by Turkish politics and threats to their very existence. In recent years with the Syrian uprising and rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Turks saw it to be to their advantage to fund, train and equip Islamist rebels that they believed could keep the Kurdish independence movements in Syria in a weakened state or altogether destroyed. The Kurds, meanwhile, fought back in 2015 when ISIS invaded the city of Kobani on the Turkish border and rose up as a valiant on-the-ground force to repel the terrorists. The U.S. led coalition began arming and supplying the YPG and YPJ, and providing air cover, infusing the Kurds with a powerful sense of valor and military might that ultimately led to the complete territorial defeat of an Islamic State “Caliphate” that had taken as its motto “remain and expand.”ISIS is hardly a defeated foe however, with weekly sleeper cell attacks occurring in both Syria and Iraq and the likes of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi still making video and audio appeals to supporters around the world to reinstate the Caliphate, starting with breaking the ISIS prisoners out of captivity.The subject of ISIS captives is one of great importance to President Trump who repeatedly has threatened to release the roughly 12,000 ISIS foreign men, women and children prisoners held by the SDF in prisons and camps. Trump’s view is that each country has to take its citizens back, even countries like Sweden that lack a terrorism law under which to prosecute returnees, and countries like France, which already has a serious militant jihadi prison problem and fears any more potential ISIS cadres inside its penitentiaries. These countries have continued to tell the SDF that an international tribunal can be established in its territory to try ISIS prisoners in place. But the UN Counter Terrorism Directorate and U.S. State Department strongly disagree with this proposal and President Trump continues to tweet that he is simply going to release the prisoners to European countries refusing to repatriate them—even though it is the SDF, not Washington, that has them in custody.In a series of tweets on Monday, Trump claimed erroneously that most of the ISIS prisoners are foreigner terrorist fighters and seemed to ignore that ISIS, even when based far away in Syria, is a very real threat to U.S. citizens and interests. It is “time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home. WE WILL FIGHT WHERE IT IS TO OUR BENEFIT, AND ONLY FIGHT TO WIN. Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to … figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their “neighborhood.” They all hate ISIS, have been enemies for years. We are 7000 miles away and will crush ISIS again if they come anywhere near us!”While arguments of who should be responsible to prosecute and hold ISIS prisoners can be made on both sides, in many ways Europe, Jordan and many other countries effectively did “flush the toilet” of their militant jihadi problem by allowing them to freely exit their countries to go fight in Syria, most of them ultimately joining ISIS. The U.S. at present repatriates all of its ISIS fighters bringing them to swift and sound justice at home.* * *ISIS AMBASSADOR TO TURKEY* * *Turkey also has a responsibility in the rise of ISIS, having allowed over 40,000 foreign fighters to cross over its border into Syria, many unabashedly on their way to join the Islamic State. Many prisoners tell us of Turkish complicity with their journey into ISIS-land and being wished well by border guards who winked as they crossed into Syria.Abu Mansour, a 36-year-old Moroccan ISIS emir interviewed by ICSVE in February 2019 in Iraqi prison, told us that he basically functioned as the ISIS ambassador to Turkey, negotiating border issues, the transfer of ISIS wounded into Turkey for treatment, the flow of foreign fighters across the Turkish border into ISIS territory, and other logistics. “The subject of Turkey is a very big one,” he said, “and the mutual interests include the obvious and the hidden.”“Their benefit was that it was a border area and we have a border strip with them,” Abu Mansour continued. “Security is one of them, and they wanted to control north of Syria.” The Turks wanted to control the entire border region in Syria and even into Iraq as far as Mosul, according to Abu Mansour, but they wanted to do it through a proxy force. “So, they wanted to find organizations that would do this favor for them, including terminating the presence of the Kurdish Workers Party [the PKK], without a direct interference from Turkey. At the same time, especially since they were part of NATO, they don’t want to anger NATO, because they need NATO.”By the same token, Turkish President Erdogan’s background as a committed Islamist created a certain sympathy, as did his ambition to revive in modern form the old Ottoman empire, Abu Mansour claimed. “The pretext of [controlling the] Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] is a strong pretext for Turkey, but they have ambitions, as they have entered regions that don’t have PKK in them.” Abu Mansour explained the Turkish and ISIS relationship through his own experiences. In 2013, he said, he was assigned to receive the ISIS volunteers arriving in Turkey, but later, “I supervised the country entry operations, registration as a whole.” Then in 2015, he said, “I worked on external relations, relations with the Turkish intelligence. It started when I was at the borders.” First there was an agreement about passing the wounded from Syria into Turkey, about the border crossing and security arrangements. “Ambulances, especially in critical and serious situations, could go straight to the [border] gate,” said Abu Mansour. “Then a Turkish ambulance takes the case to the Turkish hospitals, and it is followed up inside Turkey. There was a hotline with intelligence who are located at the borders. Most places were available, [including] hospitals in Turkey [and] there was a technical staff of doctors who follow up the case in Turkey. The [Turkish] state was paying for certain operations performed in private hospitals, but most cases referred by the public hospitals were for free.”Abu Mansour said he had “face-to-face meetings with Turkish delegations. Sometimes they represented the intelligence services, sometimes the Turkish army, depending on the issue. “Most meetings were in Turkey on the border strip, but there were also meetings in Ankara and Gaziantep, depending on the issue,” said Abu Mansour. He would travel with a delegation of two or three ISIS people.”Referencing the easy relationship, as he saw it, between ISIS and the Turkish intelligence and military, Abu Mansour claimed, an ISIS emir could “go to Ankara without a problem. They always sent a car, or a bodyguard. At one point, we met weekly, depending on the issue and its importance to Turkey and to us, according to the demand.”The situation described by Abu Mansour raises a question: did the ultimate defeat of ISIS in fact deprive the Turks of the proxy buffer zone they wanted—which they are now invading Syria to establish?Abu Mansour recalled, “Turkey asked on many occasions for a safe zone.” This would be a demilitarized zone where it would provide ISIS with whatever it wanted, but only inside Syrian territories. According to Abu Mansour, , ISIS refused to grant it, and relations started to fall apart. Eventually, Turkey grew sick of the back and forth, and there was also a split in ISIS leadership, with one faction deciding it would take the terror war into Turkey with a 2016 bombing at Istanbul airport. At the time, Abu Mansour was in Gaziantep, Turkey, and the Turkish authorities told him they thought this was an orchestrated act to pressure Ankara. But he says that was not the case. The external security services of ISIS had started setting their own agenda, “carrying out operations everywhere,” Abu Mansour told us. “We reached a state in which they couldn’t care less about politics, and they worked like gangs, [and would] strike anywhere.”While Turkey continues to claim that the SDF, our strongest ally in fighting ISIS, is a terrorist dominated group, many questions remain about Turkey’s own complicity with ISIS. Given that during a bitterly fought war with ISIS, in which many Kurdish lives were lost, that the SDF managed to take control of the area, institute a functioning political system that included granting an impressive array of minority rights and rights to women, the SDF deserves our respect and protection.But U.S. President Donald Trump has put a price on all this. “The Kurds fought with us,” he tweeted, “but were paid massive amounts of money and equipment to do so.” That they saved countless lives in the process, including American lives, does not seem to have been a factor.Spencer Ackerman also contributed reporting to this article.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham lead condemnation of foreign policy move that could prove ‘disaster in the making’Donald Trump with Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, in the Cabinet Room on Monday. Lindsey Graham said abandoning the Kurds would be ‘a stain on America’s honour’. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/APDonald Trump was dangerously isolated on Monday as, in a rare rebuke, some of his most loyal allies revolted against his decision to withdraw US troops from north-eastern Syria.Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell led a chorus of Republicans who, having defended the president on almost every other issue – including over impeachment – decided to draw a line in the sand.“A precipitous withdrawal of US forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” McConnell said. “And it would increase the risk that Isis and other terrorist groups regroup.”He added: “As we learned the hard way during the Obama administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal.”The criticism was significant because McConnell is usually at pains not to cross Trump even at his most capricious. Last week the Kentucky senator released a Facebook video promising to stop Democratic-led impeachment in its tracks.Article 1 of the United States constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to initiate impeachment and the Senate the sole power to try impeachments of the president. A president can be impeached if they are judged to have committed "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors" – although the constitution does not specify what “high crimes and misdemeanors” are.The process starts with the House of Representatives passing articles of impeachment. A simple majority of members need to vote in favour of impeachment for it to pass to the next stage. Democrats currently control the house, with 235 representatives.The chief justice of the US supreme court then presides over the proceedings in the Senate, where the president is tried, with senators acting as the jury. For the president to be found guilty two-thirds of senators must vote to convict. Republicans currently control the Senate, with 53 of the 100 senators.Two presidents have previously been impeached, Bill Clinton in 1998, and Andrew Johnson in 1868, though neither was removed from office as a result. Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before there was a formal vote to impeach him.Martin BelamThe unusual fracture emerged on Sunday night when, shortly after a phone conversation between Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the White House announced removal of US troops from the Syria-Turkey border area. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” it added.Critics of all political stripes have long feared that the move could open the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish-led fighters in the area. Kurdish groups have fought alongside a small US presence in Syria to drive Islamic State militants from the region.The Republican backlash was rapid and potentially unnerving for a president whose fate is tethered to the party and the assumption that it will acquit him in the Senate if, as widely expected, the Democratic-led House of Representatives votes for impeachment.Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate judiciary committee, who has become an outspoken defender (and frequent golf partner) of Trump, did not acquiesce this time. Abandonment of the Kurds would be “a disaster in the making”, he said, and “a stain on America’s honour”.Graham told Fox News: “I hope I’m making myself clear how short-sighted and irresponsible this decision is. I like President Trump. I’ve tried to help him. This, to me, is just unnerving to its core.”Graham wrote on Twitter that if the plan goes ahead, he will introduce a Senate resolution opposing it and seeking reversal of the decision. He added: “We will introduce bipartisan sanctions against Turkey if they invade Syria and will call for their suspension from NATO if they attack Kurdish forces who assisted the US in the destruction of the ISIS Caliphate.”Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in the House, whose attempts to defend Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president have provoked mockery, said: “If you make a commitment and somebody is fighting with you, America should keep their word.”Michael McCaul of Texas, the lead Republican on the House foreign affairs committee, also urged the president to reconsider. “The United States should not step aside and allow a Turkish military operation in north-east Syria,” he said. “This move will undermine our ongoing campaign to prevent an Isis resurgence and will ultimately threaten our homeland.“Additionally, the United States needs to stay engaged to prevent further destructive involvement in the region from our adversaries like the Assad regime, Putin and Iran.”Notably, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, reluctant to criticise Trump even when the president suggested that China investigate former vice president and 2020 election rival Joe Biden, was clear , describing the retreat as “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria”And Nikki Haley, Trump’s former UN ambassador, admonished Trump without mentioning his name. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she tweeted. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake. TurkeyIsNotOurFriend”Ominously for Trump, even conservative Fox News aired dissent. Host Brian Kilmeade described the pullout as “a disaster”, telling viewers of Fox & Friends: “Abandon our allies? That’s a campaign promise? Abandon the people that got the caliphate destroyed?”Republicans who have contradicted Trump before did so forcefully again. Utah senator Mitt Romney described Trump’s announcement as “a betrayal”, adding: “It says that America is an unreliable ally; it facilitates ISIS resurgence; and it presages another humanitarian disaster.”Romney and Democratic senator Chris Murphy issued a joint statement insisting Trump’s administration “explain to the American people how betraying an ally and ceding influence to terrorists and adversaries is not disastrous for our national security interests”.Democrats also piled in but there was a lone voice of support for the president on Capitol Hill. Republican senator Rand Paul, long a critic of foreign intervention, said: “So many neocons want us to stay in wars all over the Middle East forever. [Trump] is absolutely right to end those wars and bring the troops home.”Trump himself was undeterred by the blowback. Speaking at the White House on Monday, he said he has “great respect” for the prominent Republican critics. And added: “People are extremely thrilled because they say it’s time to bring our people back home. We’re not a police force. They’re policing the area. We’re not a police force. The UK was very thrilled at this decision … many people agree with it very strongly.”
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIPresident Donald Trump’s decision to pave the way for a Turkish invasion of northern Syria at the expense of Kurdish allies in the region has infuriated Republican allies in the Senate who have spent the last two weeks twisting themselves in knots to defend him from an impeachment inquiry. Late on Sunday, the White House released a one-paragraph statement declaring that a Turkish invasion of northern Syria was imminent, and the United States would “not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.” For Kurds in the region—who have been fighting ISIS with U.S.-supplied weapons and are largely considered the strongest fighting force in Syria—the declaration amounts to an abrogration of agreements with the United States to defend them against Turkey, which considers them to be terrorists. In June, Trump himself warned that abandoning the alliance would allow Turkey to “wipe out the Kurds, who helped us with ISIS.”Trump’s Crazy Syria Move Will Wipe Out America’s Allies and Set Up a Big ISIS ComebackThe backlash from his Republican allies was swift. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), led the way on Monday morning, with the South Carolina senator calling the move “shortsighted and irresponsible” on Fox & Friends, a show that effectively serves as a televised presidential daily brief for Trump.“This impulsive decision by the president has undone all the gains we’ve made, thrown the region into further chaos, Iran is licking their chops, and if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life,” Graham said. “I will do everything I can to sanction Turkey’s military and their economy if they step one foot into Syria. I hope I’m making myself clear how shortsighted and irresponsible this decision is.”Graham even referenced the House’s impeachment inquiry, unprompted, before adding that while “I’ve tried to help him,” the president’s behavior was “just unnerving to its core.”Graham, who has spent years trying to steer Trump closer to the hawkish foreign policy stances held by his Republican predecessors, opened the floodgates for Republicans who see Trump’s move as a threat to a critical U.S. ally in the region, and a potentially disastrous embrace of an autocratic regime.Indeed, Monday saw widespread pushback from around the Senate GOP, from lawmakers who’ve cozied up to Trump to those who have been more willing to call him out. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a Trump ally who has nudged him toward more hawkish positions on Venezuela and Iran policy, called the decision “a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said that he was “deeply concerned” that the decision could leave Kurds who risked their lives to fight ISIS in harm’s way.And Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), probably Trump’s most vocal Senate GOP critic, characterized the pullout as “a betrayal” that “presages another humanitarian disaster” in Syria. Romney went so far as to join Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) to demand that administration officials explain their move to lawmakers and the public. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), meanwhile, has toned down his Trump criticism lately but warned that the retreat would “likely result in the slaughter of allies who fought with us, including women and children.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) managed to subtweet the president, calling Trump’s move “a terribly unwise decision” moments after the president described his wisdom on the matter as “great and unmatched.”Even Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a rare rebuke of the president whom he has pledged to protect from removal from office, pleaded with Trump to maintain an American presence in the region and to prevent Turkey from invading.“I urge the president to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” McConnell said in a statement. Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria, McConnell said, “would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”Among Trump’s allies seeking to thread the needle between opposing the withdrawal and ensuring that the president didn’t feel attacked was Sen. Ted Cruz, who tweeted that while Trump was “right to want to bring our soldiers home,” it would be “DISGRACEFUL” (capital letters Cruz’s) to allow Turkey to attack Kurdish allies in the region.“Our enemies and rivals (Iran, Russia, etc.) don’t abandon their allies,” Cruz said. “If we want allies to stand with America in the future, we shouldn’t either. Honorable nations stand by their friends.”Seemingly alone among Senate Republicans in supporting the withdrawal was Sen. Rand Paul, who is perhaps the biggest cheerleader of Trump’s isolationist instincts. The Kentucky senator told reporters that he stands with Trump “as he once again fulfills his promises to stop our endless wars and have a true America First foreign policy.”Other Senate Republicans have remained tight-lipped on the president’s decision, perhaps praying that Trump will reverse course on the withdrawal—as he did in December 2018, after sharp rebukes from within the party and the resignation of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis halted a hastily announced drawdown of U.S. troops from Syria.Asked during an event celebrating a trade agreement with Japan on Monday afternoon about whether he had consulted with the Joint Chiefs of Staff about the decision, Trump insisted that he had.“I consulted with everybody,” Trump said.Additional reporting: Sam Brodey Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
(Bloomberg) -- One of Donald Trump’s biggest defenders in Congress rebuked the president’s decision to step aside from Kurdish allies in Syria while Turkey’s military advances, saying it would result in the re-emergence of ISIS.“ISIS is not defeated, my friend. The biggest lie being told by the administration is that ISIS is defeated,” Senator Lindsey Graham told “Fox and Friends” in a phone call Monday. “The Caliphate is destroyed, but there’s thousands of fighters” still there.Graham said he would sponsor a resolution urging Trump to reconsider the decision he called “shortsighted and irresponsible.” Graham said he and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen will also introduce a resolution to impose sanctions on Turkey if it invades Syria.The sharp criticism from Graham, a South Carolina Republican who usually is one of Trump’s fiercest defenders in the Senate, signals the president’s plan could meet resistance on Capitol Hill. Other Republican lawmakers were joining in expressing misgivings on Monday, echoing the admonishment that prompted Trump to reverse course on a similar pullout announced last year.Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said on Twitter that “the Trump administration has made a grave mistake that will have implications far beyond Syria.”Representative Peter King, a Republican from New York, tweeted that the move “betrays Kurds, strengthens ISIS and endangers American homeland.”And Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, emphasized the risks of the U.S. abandoning allies in the Mideast. “We must always have the backs of our allies, if we expect them to have our back,” she said on Twitter. “The Kurds were instrumental in our successful fight against ISIS in Syria. Leaving them to die is a big mistake.”Even before the pushback, Trump was defending his decision Monday, insisting on Twitter that the U.S. can’t afford to be stuck in “ridiculous endless wars.” The U.S. was only supposed to be in Syria for 30 days but stayed and “got deeper and deeper into battle with no aim in sight,” Trump tweeted, insisting he’d held off this fight for almost three years.Trump’s move represents a significant shift in U.S. policy that raises questions about the fate of tens of thousands of Islamic State detainees and casts further doubt on the reliability of the U.S. as an ally in the region.Trump said Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to “figure the situation out, and what they want to do with the captured ISIS fighters in their ‘neighborhood.”’The White House said Turkey would take responsibility for any Islamic State fighters captured in the area over the past two years. It gave no details and it wasn’t immediately clear what, if any, plan the NATO allies had agreed to handle the detainees or how they would be transferred to Turkish custody.But the assurance represents a potential win for Trump, who has insisted that the U.S. would bear no responsibility for any Islamic State detainees, as he gears up for the 2020 election.Close U.S. AllyThe Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a close U.S. ally in the fight to defeat Islamic State. But Turkey considers Syria’s Kurdish militants a threat to its national security, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said his forces are ready to begin a military operation against them in northeastern Syria.The U.S. in 2015 provided air support for Kurdish militias to retake the critical town of Kobani from Islamic State and has since used Kurdish fighters as ground troops in the campaign to clear Syria of the group.Trump’s approach to Syria has previously caused friction with administration officials. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, resigned last December after Trump said the U.S. would withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan -- a decision Trump later reversed.Graham, who has not shied from criticizing other Trump moves on foreign policy, said that fatigue with the fight is not a reason to abandon it. Leaving the U.S. wartime Kurdish allies will only make it harder to find allies in the future, he warned.“If we abandon them, good luck getting anybody to help America in the future with radical Islam, al Qaeda and ISIS,” Graham said. “You may be tired of fighting radical Islam, but they’re not tired of fighting you.”Graham called Trump’s decision “impulsive” and said the ensuing chaos in the region will only help U.S. foes. “Iran is licking their chops,” he said. “And if I’m an ISIS fighter, I’ve got a second lease on life.”An adviser to the Syrian Democratic Forces said that Trump’s move will strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies Iran and Russia.“The Kurds told me this morning they were going to fight,” Moti Kahana, an adviser to the Kurdish-led forces, said by telephone from New Jersey. “They have two options. They can partner with Iran and Assad in order to prevent Turkish intervention into Syria or face a fight against Turkey in the northern border area and with Iran” in the southeast.Even if the Kurds don’t fight, Kahana said, “they will shift their alliance from the Americans” to Russia, Assad and Iran.Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet that the U.S. is “an irrelevant occupioer in Syria” and it’s “futile to seek its permission or relyl on it for security.”(Updates with comment from adviser to Syrian Kurds, Iran’s Zarif in final paragraphs.)\--With assistance from Steven T. Dennis.To contact the reporters on this story: Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington at email@example.com;Glen Carey in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.orgTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Alex Wayne at email@example.com, Elizabeth Wasserman, Larry LiebertFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.
|Cache||BEIRUT -- Syria's Kurds accused the U.S. of turning its back on its allies and risking gains made in the fight against the Islamic State group as American troops began pulling back on Monday from ... - Source: www.nwaonline.com|
|Cache||A US pullout from north-east Syria could put Turkish and Kurdish fighters on collision course there.|
|Cache||Experts say the sudden US decision to withdraw from areas near the Syria-Turkish border has placed Syrian Kurdish forces in a difficult situation|
|Cache||[guest post by Dana] This happened last night: The White House said that United States forces in northern Syria would move aside in advance of a planned Turkish military offensive. The move marks a major shift in US foreign policy and effectively gives Turkey the green light to attack US-backed Kurdish forces. The group, long […]|
10/07 Links Pt1: Whatever Happened to the Palestinian ‘Diplomatic Tsunami’?; FM confirms initiative to sign ‘historic’ non-aggression pact with Arab states; Fatah attempts to hide its terror promotion from FacebookCache
Jonathan S. Tobin: Whatever Happened to the Palestinian ‘Diplomatic Tsunami’?
At the United Nations, where once-hardened ex-generals like Barak quaked about the prospect of the world uniting to force Israel to accept a Palestinian state, the situation for the Jewish state’s foes is particularly dismal. It’s true that many UN agencies, like its Human Rights Council, are still cesspools of antisemitism and hypocrisy, focusing almost exclusively on bogus attacks on Israel while ignoring real human-rights catastrophes in countries around the world.FM confirms initiative to sign ‘historic’ non-aggression pact with Arab states
Foreign Minister Israel Katz on Sunday confirmed that he has been advancing non-aggression treaties with several Arab countries in the Gulf, a “historic” démarche he said could end the conflict between Jerusalem and those states.PMW: Fatah attempts to hide its terror promotion from Facebook
In fact PMW's reports show that Fatah does all of that and worse on its Facebook page, and PMW has pointed this out to Facebook more than once. Yet Facebook continues to leave the platform open for Fatah's terror promotion.
PA wipes peace agreements from schoolbooks, encourages incitement and intolerance
The Palestinian Authority has removed any mention of past agreements with Israel from their school textbooks, with the exception of the Oslo Accords, which are mentioned in far less detail than in previous editions of the schoolbooks, according to a new report by Yedioth Aharonot.
Seth J. Frantzman: Trump gives green light to Turkey to take over Syria, displace U.S. partners
Turkey will soon move forward with its long-planned military operation to create what it calls a "safe zone" in northern Syria – and U.S. forces will not support or be involved in it, the White House press secretary announced early Monday morning. The move is an extraordinary reversal of US policy that leaves America's allies wondering whether they can still rely on the Trump administration.US Throws Kurdish Allies Under the Bus; Turkey "Opens the Floodgates" to Europe
Turkey's Erdogan government will be invading northern Syria to slaughter the Kurds, America's loyal allies against ISIS; release captured ISIS fighters, and doubtless seek to stay permanently in control of the area. The horror is that it will be doing all this with the tacit blessing of the US.Netanyahu says cooperation with Russia 'critical' with U.S. to leave Syria
Israel has “great challenges around us” and it's cooperation with Russia is “critical,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday, a day after US President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw troops from Syria and allow a Turkish incursion there against Kurdish forces.Lindsey Graham, Nikki Haley on Trump's Syria plan: Disaster in the making
The Trump administration's move, which opens the way for a Turkish strike on Kurdish fighters long aligned with Washington, runs counter to the positions of even some of Trump's top allies in his own party.US troops begin Syria pullout as Turkey readies offensive, alarming Kurds
US-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria said American troops began withdrawing Monday from northeast Syria ahead of a Turkish invasion that the Kurds say will overturn five years of achievements in the battle against the Islamic State terror group.UN ‘preparing for the worst’ from Turkey’s Syria operation
The United Nations said Monday it was “preparing for the worst” in northeast Syria after the United States said it would step aside to allow for Turkish military operations in the area.
Netanyahu: Israel Needs Air Defense System Against Iranian Cruise Missiles
In a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a massive air defense system to defend against Iranian attacks, especially cruise missiles like those used in attacks on a Saudi Arabian oil facility last month, according to KAN.Iran unveils kit to convert artillery rockets into guided missiles
The Iranian military says it has produced a new conversion kit to upgrade artillery rockets to surface-to-surface missiles, technology that Israel has accused Tehran of attempting to deliver to the Hezbollah terror group.Congresswoman: Antisemitism, Iran threat highlight need for US-Israel ties
Growing global antisemitism and the dangers of Iran make it more important than ever that the US maintain close ties to Israel, leading Republican Representative Ann Wagner of Missouri said during a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, in which she spoke against BDS and promoted joint Palestinian-Israeli business ventures over the Green Line.'The days of the Ottoman Empire are over'
Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz has ordered his office to draw up plans to stop the Turkish government's efforts to undermine Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and protect Jordan's special status as guardian of Muslim holy sites in the city.How to get Erdogan off the Temple Mount
This is why a new plan from Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz should be seen more as a declaration of intent and less as an operational plan. For the plan to take effect, defense and security officials who have been dealing with the issue for several years already must supply the top political echelon with evidence. Anyone who wants, for example, to limit the activity of TIKA, a well-endowed Turkish government agency, in Jerusalem will have to first prove that its activity goes beyond the bounds of civil/community service and slides into violence and incitement. Thus far, no evidence of that has been found, although attempts have been made to do so.Israel backs Cyprus as Turkey moves gas drill into its waters
Israel’s envoy to Cyprus on Monday expressed backing for the Mediterranean island state after Turkey moved a gas drilling rig into Cypriot waters last week.German Jews blast WJC's decision to give Merkel the Herzl Award
Members of Germany's Jewish community are speaking out against the World Jewish Congress's decision to honor Chancellor Angela Merkel with its prestigious Herzl Award.IDF Sets Up New Anti-Tunnel Company to Detect, Destroy Threats in Israel’s North
The Israel Defense Forces have set up a special engineering corps company to discover and prevent terror tunnels dug across Israel’s northern border from Lebanon.Arabs Hurl Firebombs, Burn Tires as Jews Pray at Joseph’s Tomb
Dozens of Palestinians rioted on Sunday night following the pilgrimage of some 1,000 Jews, under Israeli security escort, to the Tomb of Joseph in Shechem/Nablus to pray. The rioters threw firebombs and burning tires at security personnel.Palestinian Authority Continues to Pay Salaries to Terrorists
Abbas' remarks, which were less acerbic in tone than those he made in previous addresses to the General Assembly, reflected a concern over the ineffectiveness of his policies and the sidelining of the Palestinian issue from the international, regional, and Israeli agenda.Khaled Abu Toameh: Shtayyeh: We received NIS 1.5 billion from Israel
The crisis between Israel and the Palestinian Authority over Israeli deductions of payments made to security prisoners and families of Palestinians killed while carrying out attacks against Israelis remains unresolved, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday.Abbas says he’ll discuss elections with Hamas, factions but provides no timeline
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that he would discuss plans for new parliamentary elections with all factions, including longtime rivals Hamas.Khaled Abu Toameh: What Iran's Friends Are Doing in Gaza
In other words, Islamic Jihad's promise is one of unending toxicity: to go on poisoning the hearts and minds of generation after generation of Palestinians – as well as to continue investing millions of dollars in building tunnels and amassing weapons to ensure that the fight against Israel continues forever.
Lebanon arrests Syrian for making phone calls to Israel
Lebanese authorities have arrested a Syrian national accused of having made phone calls to neighboring Israel, the army said Friday.Does Iran’s Leader Leave Room for Iran’s Return to the Negotiating Table?
At the same time, over the past few weeks, there have been increasing calls from senior religious figures in Iran and the leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard for the destruction of the State of Israel. This is similar to statements issued by the Supreme Leader in 2016 that Israel would cease to exist in another 25 years. It is possible that this round of criticism against Israel serves a smokescreen while negotiations are taking place between Iran and the United States to enable Iran’s return to the nuclear deal.Iran says Russian journalist held over visa issue, not Israel spy claim
Iran has confirmed the arrest last week in Tehran of a Russian journalist, saying the case was a matter of a visa violation.
Watch this video|
|Cache||The Morning Joe panel discusses the fallout from President Trump's decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the northern border of Syria and allow a Turkish operation there.|
|Cache||Rachel Maddow reports on the Donald Trump's abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, leaving the fate of Kurdish former-allies in the hands of a Turkish invasion, and the scorn and condemnation Trump has drawn even from usually unfailingly loyal|
(Beirut) – A Kurdish-led armed group backed by the United States-led coalition against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is detaining thousands of Syrian and foreign men and boys in severely overcrowded informal detention centers in northeast Syria, Human Rights Watch said today. The heightened possibility of a Turkish invasion of northeast Syria underscores the urgent need for countries to immediately ensure that their imprisoned citizens can return home for rehabilitation, reintegration, and appropriate prosecution in line with international standards.
On October 7, 2019, US President Donald Trump announced a pullout of US troops from northeast Syria, an area controlled by the Kurdish-led armed group, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had been a key member of the international coalition against ISIS. The group is detaining thousands of Syrian and foreign men and boys in severely overcrowded schools and other buildings in northeast Syria.
“Thousands of people, including children, are stuck in what amounts to shockingly overcrowded prisons on suspicion of being ISIS, but no one is accepting responsibility for them,” said Letta Tayler, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Any authority that effectively controls these informal prisons is legally bound to urgently improve conditions and ensure that each and every detainee is held lawfully.”
The SDF says it is holding 12,000 prisoners, including 4,000 foreigners, in 7 detention centers in northeast Syria. Human Rights Watch spoke to two witnesses, including a former prisoner, who described harrowing conditions and severe overcrowding in the detention centers. The Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration controlling northern Syria says it lacks the resources to detain the prisoners properly and that their own countries should bring them home for investigation and potential prosecution. Most countries have failed to do so.
Human Rights Watch interviewed a journalist who said he had visited one of the detention facilities and reviewed his video footage published in The Times of London on September 30. The footage showed cells with dozens of men in orange jumpsuits packed together tightly, their bodies touching, and an equally crowded medical block in a detention center holding boys. The journalist said the detainees included British, French, Belgian, and US citizens, and that they were held in “terrible, terrible conditions.” CBS news published similar images on September 17. Human Rights Watch was not able to verify the images independently.
According to The Times, the people pictured were captured during the battle of Baghouz, which ended in February, and held on suspicion of being ISIS members.
Another person who visited one of the detention centers showed Human Rights Watch two recent photos that also showed severe overcrowding as well as male prisoners who appeared to be children sharing cells with men.
The journalist, Anthony Loyd, said he saw more than 450 detainees in the hospital block of one detention center, including children as young as 12. Many patients were not receiving adequate care and some had died of their injuries in the detention center, he said.
“Several prisoners had multiple amputations and I saw one with his intestines hanging out beneath a bloody dressing. The situation was pretty bleak,” Loyd said. “There were children there.”
The SDF is detaining many boys, some as young as 12, in informal detention centers, but others, particularly younger boys, are held with their parents in camps for suspected ISIS family members or in centers for children apprehended without their parents. One 16-year-old, who spoke with Human Rights Watch in June at a center for unaccompanied boys, said that the SDF and US forces appeared to decide at random which boys to imprison and which to send to the camps or centers.
“One American twice put me in a line to go to jail. But another American cursed him and said, ‘Why are you putting him back? The boy is small,’” the boy said.
The evidence and images reviewed by Human Rights Watch strongly suggest that conditions are unfit to hold detainees and fail to meet basic international standards.
Countries that have refused to allow the return of their nationals held in informal detention centers, or in squalid northeast Syrian camps holding more than 100,000 women and children related to ISIS suspects, nearly half of them foreigners, cite national security concerns and insufficient evidence for prosecution as justification for leaving them there.
Local authorities claim they do not have the necessary infrastructure to prosecute foreign ISIS suspects in line with international due process standards. They have nevertheless set up courts that have tried thousands of Syrian ISIS suspects in flawed proceedings. But neither the Syrian government nor the international community – including the Autonomous Administration’s own international partners – recognize the courts, raising doubts about the enforceability of the rulings.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the “Mandela Rules”) require that “[a]ll accommodation provided for the use of prisoners … shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.” The rules state that “sanitary installations shall be adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the needs of nature when necessary and in a clean and decent manner” and that “[a]dequate bathing and shower installations shall be provided.”
The Autonomous Administration should stop detaining children solely for suspected ISIS membership. Children who have been associated with armed groups should be treated primarily as victims who need rehabilitation assistance and help reintegrating into society. Children who may have committed other violent offenses should be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards and detained only as a last resort. Child suspects should be held separately from adults, unless it is considered in the child's best interest not to do so.
In addition to immediately ensuring that citizens trapped in northeast Syria can return to countries that guarantee due process, countries including members of the International Coalition against ISIS should also press and provide support to detaining authorities to end the inhumane conditions for those who cannot be promptly taken home or be involuntarily resettled without risk of torture or ill-treatment, including citizens of Iraq. The detaining authorities should ensure that anyone it is holding has been detained according to law, including prompt judicial review of each detainee to ensure the legality and necessity of detention, and that no one is held in inhumane or degrading conditions.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, anyone detained on suspicion for committing criminal offenses should be taken promptly before a judge or an equivalent authority to order their release. Anyone so detained is entitled to a trial within a reasonable time or release. The UN Human Rights Committee, which interprets the covenant, has said that the right to a judicial review of detention continues at all times, including in emergency situations.
Pending repatriation or third-country resettlement of non-Syrian prisoners to countries where they are not at risk of torture, ill-treatment, or unfair trials, the US-led coalition and countries with nationals held in northeast Syria should provide financial and technical support to the detaining authorities. The funding should be used to ensure that the authorities house all detainees in official prisons that are built to accommodate detainees and meet basic international standards including standards regarding juvenile justice.
“That those detained are ISIS suspects is no excuse for home countries to look the other way,” Tayler said. “If conditions in these prisons don’t improve, then home countries’ fears of radicalization and ISIS resurgence could become a reality.”
|Cache||Rachel Maddow reports on the Donald Trump's abrupt decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, leaving the fate of Kurdish former-allies in the hands of a...|
Betraying Kurdish forces will threaten a thriving model of governance and empower ISIS all over again.
The post Trump’s Syria Pullout Will Destroy the Middle East’s Only Woman-Led Democracy appeared first on The Nation.
|Cache||Source: Trump ally: US pullout from Syria will put Israel at risk | The Times of Israel Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says decision would allow Iran to get a greater foothold in region and become ‘a nightmare’ for the Jewish state 7 October 2019, 9:42 pm US Senator Lindsey Graham during a Senate Judiciary Committee […]|