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Tensions mounting in Syria, Turkey terrorizing Kurds

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Just because the Syrian Civil War has been won, does not mean that it’s over. The Liberation of Aleppo paired with the Fall of the Islamic State is enough grounds for the Assad regime to clinch victory. While ISIS still troubles the desert, HTS, the latest rebranding of Al-Qaeda holds a dwindling amount of territory in Syria’s northeast. Without a overly significant ISIS presence, the Syrian Arab Army and its allies have focused their attention on HTS territory as well as terrorist held territory in the suburbs of Damascus. HTS, while not officially listed as a foreign terror organization, is the evolved version of the al-Nursa Front which is. This organization may have a more active ally in Turkey. After several months of deescalating, tensions are mounting in Syria.

Turkey has already seized territory in Syria as apart of Operation Euphrates Shield using the unofficial terror organization, the FSA (Free Syrian Army), as a front for doing so. Turkey has also been undergoing operations in North Idlib and West Aleppo, territory held by the HTS. Now Turkey has commenced Operation Olive Branch, a misleading name to put it bluntly. The primary target of Operation Olive Branch is the YPG. The YPG is a Kurdish paramilitary that was a large contributor to dismantling the Islamic State’s presence in the country. They are the primary forces in control of the Afrin region in Syria. On January 19th, Turkey launched Operation Olive branch after mounting forces along the region’s border. What began as bombings and shelling escalated into mini land grabs along Afrin’s border. Turkey has also upped its propaganda game.

If this seems confusing allow this excerpt from TRTWorld to clear things up.

TRTWorld: The strategy behind Operation Olive Branch

Afrin, in northwest Syria bordering Turkey, used to be a city with a population of 80,000. Taking advantage of the chaos caused by the civil war in Syria, the YPG took control of it in 2012. During the years of civil war, since there are no clashes in Afrin, its population increased up to 300,000. And finally, after the evacuation of Aleppo in December 2016, people fled to Afrin, increasing the population to around 750,000. Around 60 percent is Arabs, five percent on the Turkish border in the northwest of the city is Turkmen, and the rest are Kurds. Hundreds of its original residents, who could flee the YPG after 2012, are in Turkey.

Afrin is located between two strategic Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)-held areas: Azaz and Idlib. The two FSA commanders who talked to TRT World, tell of the geographical importance of Afrin in these words: We need to connect two opposition areas to support each other. But using the road in Turkey along the border from Kilis to Reyhanlı takes five hours. If we drive directly from Azaz to Idlib through Tel Rifat, it would only take less than two hours.

That makes the Tel Rifat front of upmost importance to the operation.

Turkey is trying to win support for its jihadists put shifting the majority Arabs in the Afrin region against the Kurdish forces in control of the region. They are also trying to connect to of their FSA operations in two provinces. Since this operation has been launched, there are two losers: the SAA and the YPG. The SAA is having its territorial integrity violated by the uninvited Turkish forces and the YPG, and by extension Kurds, are the primary target and are at a apparent military disadvantage of the NATO power.

TSK Engaging SAA

Turkish forces have deployed a convoy featuring armored vehicles into Syria to “facilitate a deescalation zone” but is also being escorted by HTS terrorists forces.

Along the way, Russian and Syrian forces have targeted the convoy’s path. Tensions escalated to direct shelling between SAA and TSK. Meanwhile Russia is trying to balance its relationship with the Turkish regime. As of now the SAA and the Turkish controlled area north of Aleppo have held a peaceful border as Turkey just mainly wants to target Kurds. Russia and Syria have deescalated Turkish targeting to the east by taking Kurdish militias under their wing. Turkey has mostly been non-confrontational with pro-Assad forces, but this engagement could destabilize the other Turkish controlled regions in Syria.

US Response

The US has held a very weak response to Turkey’s newest rounds of aggression. President Trump and Ergodan has a phone call on the 24th over the Operation, but little has been done by Americans to combat the latest threat to stability. In fact, YPG fighters are concerned about their continued US support. Turkey could eventually pose a threat to US forces in the country. The US has forces in the Manbij region of Syria which is east of Turkish zone captured during Euphrates Shield. After Turkey is done attacking Kurds in Afrin, they could move east towards Iraq into Manbij. The forces their have stated their right to self defense against any incoming attack which makes the possibility of an intra-NATO skirmish all that more likely.

Takeaway

Kurds have reason to worry as Turkey has a brutal history of exterminating ethnicities they don’t like and a continued success at getting others not to address their atrocities. The Turkish regime is becoming increasingly Islamic and totalitarian. Turkey’s tactics appear to be performing land grabs extending to Iraq, but the implications of its Operation on the Syrian Civil War are more clouded. So whether this is muscle flexing against a Shia power or a more nefarious jihadist mission has yet to be determined. This could destabilize the entire country that has already spent several years in war and was just seeing the light at the end. Before this, the HTS was doomed to lose, paving the way for more formal peace talks. But now they have some new life with Operation Olive Branch.

Foreign Affairs

Saudi foreign minister does damage control on American press

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Saudi foreign minister does damage control on American press

The foreign relations mess stemming from Jamal Khashoggi’s murder continues to grow more chaotic despite Saudi Arabia’s attempt to cover it up with regularly changing stories. The latest attempt at damage control comes from Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

Fox News’ Bret Baier him, pressing multiple times about Mohammad bin Salman’s role in or knowledge of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s murder. The blame is being placed on the individuals who carried out the operation; as much space is being created between the direct actors and Saudi leadership as possible.

One important note in the interview was when al-Jubier said they do not believe the entire 15-man “kill team” was at the consulate where when Khashoggi was killed there. He admitted he did not know whether Turkey really had a recording of what happened during the incident, nor whether the United States had intelligence that contradicted the Kingdom’s story.

The responses from the foreign minister were in stark contrast to the indignation exuding from the Kingdom for two weeks following the initial report of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

My Take

As I wrote last week, Saudi Arabia gravely underestimated the international response to this incident. They thought they could get rid of a dissident as they have done in the past and the response would be muted. They didn’t take into account his American ties and the desire of the Turks to expose them at every turn.

How is this going to end? It won’t, at least not for a while. Unlike other international news stories of similar magnitude, this one has multiple forces bent on keeping the story going until a satisfactory resolution is reached. It won’t be reached. The White House and the Kingdom will do whatever they can to sweep this under the rug and make people forget.

This stinks, but here’s the sad reality: “Justice” will not be delivered the way it should and the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States will return to the status quo in a few months.

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Foreign Affairs

Pulling out of the INF treaty isn’t just about Russia

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Pulling out of the INF treaty has very little to do with Russia

Russia has broken the treaty already, according to this administration as well as its predecessor. That’s enough to prompt President Trump to put out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, famously signed by President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev in 1987.

President Trump to pull US from Russia missile treaty

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45930206The US will withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, President Donald Trump has confirmed.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Trump said Russia had “violated” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The deal banned ground-launched medium-range missiles, with a range of between 500 and 5,500km (310-3,400 miles).

My Take

This isn’t about Russia. Their actions are the excuse for pulling out, but the reason for doing so is because China has no such restrictions. They’re advancements in weaponry have prompted the United States and our allies to explore means of warfare that have been prohibited.

Until now.

This is a counter to China’s continued aggressive actions. Russia will keep doing what Presidents Obama and Trump already acknowledged. No we can step up our missile program as well.

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Conspiracy Theory

Russian meddling is about dividing us, not helping Trump

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Russian meddling is about dividing us not helping Trump

Russia is meddling with our elections. They’re meddling with our entire political system. They’re meddling in our culture, freedoms, and methods of communication. I once believed they were trying to help Donald Trump become President. Now I realize they are simply elements of chaos.

Today’s report of charges filed against a Russian agent working against American interests is striking for two reasons. First, the details they’ve been able to uncover about “Project Lakhta” are astounding. Second, their strategic goal was NOT to get one person or one party into office but to sow division among the American people regardless of their political ideology.

First charge filed against Russian for interfering with elections

http://noqreport.com/2018/10/19/first-charge-filed-russian-interfering-elections/“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This case demonstrates that federal law enforcement authorities will work aggressively to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of unlawful foreign influence activities whenever feasible, and that we will not stand by idly while foreign actors obstruct the lawful functions of our government. I want to thank the agents and prosecutors for their determined work on this case.”

Russia didn’t want Trump or Clinton to be President. They didn’t really care who won. All they wanted and continue to want is that no matter who wins any given election, the opposition will be so hateful about the loss that they’re willing to act out more aggressively than they otherwise would have normally.

It’s finally becoming clear that Russia’s plan is much more subverted and, frankly, ingenious than anything mainstream media or the Democrats could have ever fathomed.

They are taking advantage of our freedom of speech and the technology that allows that speech to reach the masses. They’re theory is that if they can get people on both sides of the political spectrum to voice their opinions with hate rather than understanding, it will spread. Those who have practiced thoughtful debate are now becoming raving ranters. Those who once argued their points thoughtfully are now becoming trolls.

Russia is not the only negative actor in this and the trends were already pointing to this divisiveness taking hold and spreading like a virus well before Project Lakhta was conceived, but they have definitely added to the cacophony and harnessed our vilest emotional responses to be used against us.

Their goal is to push as many people towards the fringes as possible. They want the far-left and the far-right to grow. They want debates to turn into arguments, then arguments to turn into blind rage. From there, they speculated that we would be the initiators of our own destruction.

They may be right.

From the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation debacle to the illegal immigration debate to anything that has to do with gun rights, Americans on both sides of the aisle are becoming more passionate. That’s leading many to become unhinged. When enough people are unhinged, any hopes of civil discourse can be forgotten. We are getting to the point where we no longer discuss our differences. We simply try to shout our perspectives louder than those opposed to us.

The left is the easier target. I’m not just saying that as a conservative. I say that because their position on issues make it easier for them to be emotional when news breaks about an event important to them. This is why those who blame racism for everything are not only seeing racism in every aspect of American life but are feeling justified in practicing their own versions of racism.

We now see that Russia’s goal wasn’t to get Trump elected. It was to make one side or the other absolutely hate the outcome regardless of who won. They aren’t pushing a political agenda. They’re pushing a cultural apocalypse.

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