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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.

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Entertainment and Sports

History repeats itself: Once again the National media praises a Socialist Dictatorship.

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Being like-minded is the only reasonable explanation for this behaviour.

The occasion was the Olympic games with the national media falling all over itself to heap praise upon the a leadership of a socialist regime. But instead of a murderous socialist regime in North Korea, it was a murderous socialist regime in Germany just before WWII:

“Foreigners who know Germany only from what they have seen during this pleasant fortnight can carry home only one impression: it is that this is a nation happy and prosperous beyond belief, that Hitler is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, political leaders in the world today, and the Germans themselves are a much-maligned, hospitable, holy, peaceful people who deserve the best the world can give them.” New York Times, editorial August 16, 1936

Presumably this was before the nonsensical ‘Godwin’s law’ made the mentioning of Socialist monsters of the past verboten. Curiously enough, this is primarily used by Leftists in trying to suppress discussions of their blood soaked history. ‘Never forget’ is extremely difficult when one can ‘Never Mention’ the murderous past and present of the collectivist ideology.

Back then the New York Times had a bit more balance in it’s coverage with these headlines:

100,000 Hail Hitler; U.S. Athletes Avoid Nazi Salute To Him;

U.S. Welcome Is Mixed, Whistling Interpreted as ‘Bronx Cheer’ Is Heard as Team Gives Its Own Salute.

So why are we witness to a somewhat similar display from the national media reporting on the representatives from another Socialist nation, one that hails from North Korea instead of Germany?

Could it be they are merely ignorant that they are helping that authoritarian regime and do not understand it’s true nature? A government that starves, tortures imprisons and publicly executes it’s own people?
Was it as some have suggested in these cases, cheering for the rebel or the underdog?
Perhaps it is their way somehow going after the Trump administration?

Or could it just be that they are of the same ideological mindset?

We can dispense with giving them the benefit of the doubt. These are people of allegedly high intelligence, as is most of the Socialist-Left – Just ask them. With few exceptions – namely Buzzfeed of all places – it is hard to believe they do not understand the role they are playing with the woman who heads the ‘Propaganda and Agitation Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Nor can they be excused of not knowing the horrors taking place in what is essentially an open air concentration camp. Again, these are people who fashion themselves as the intellectual elite of the nation, the crème de la crème of the Left, standing up for the downtrodden everywhere, except North Korea.

It’s also hard to believe that the National media is really cheering for the underdog, given that description hardly extends a Germany under the iron fist of the Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiter-Partei or the Soyuz Sovetskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik. It should also be clear that the national media has a history of this kind of advocacy that existed long before Trump ascended the public stage.

So, the obvious conclusions is that they are of the same collectivist mindset. No doubt if pressed, they would offer the same excuses for the starvation, oppression and mass murder used for other collectivist nations as ‘not really socialism.’ Or that the Socialism they advocate (were they truly honest about who they are) would be ‘done correctly’ in their case.

No, these were merely people cheering for their ideological brethren, and we’ll just leave it at that.

 

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Culture and Religion

3 concerning updates on Pope Francis

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3 concerning updates on Pope Francis

Pope Francis has been quite active in 2018 and its only the beginning of February. Many big stories regarding the Pope are receiving little attention. Pope Francis seeks to be different from his predecessors but it doesn’t appear he’s immune from the pedophilia scandals within the Catholic Church. As the Pope branches out to reach more people, is the Chinese government really a good partner for the Christian faith? Lastly the Pope Francis balances his call to fight antisemitism with encouraging a highly Islamic regime.

Story 1

CBS News- AP: Despite denial, Pope Francis got sex abuse victim’s letter

Pope Francis received a victim’s letter in 2015 that graphically detailed how a priest sexually abused him and how other Chilean clergy ignored it, contradicting the pope’s recent insistence that no victims had come forward to denounce the cover-up, the letter’s author and members of Francis’ own sex- abuse commission have told The Associated Press.

The fact that Francis received the eight-page letter, obtained by the AP, challenges his insistence that he has “zero tolerance” for sex abuse and cover-ups. It also calls into question his stated empathy with abuse survivors, compounding the most serious crisis of his five-year papacy.

While the victims’ testimony was deemed credible by both Vatican and Chilean prosecutors, the local church hierarchy clearly didn’t believe them, which might have influenced Francis’ view. Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz has acknowledged he didn’t believe the victims initially and shelved an investigation. He was forced to reopen it after the victims went public. He is now one of the Argentine pope’s key cardinal advisers.

In a rare rebuke of a pope by a cardinal, O’Malley issued a statement Jan. 20 in which he said the pope’s words were “a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse,” and that such expressions had the effect of abandoning victims and relegating them to “discredited exile.”

A day later, Francis apologized for having demanded “proof” of wrongdoing by Barros, saying he meant merely that he wanted to see “evidence.” But he continued to describe the accusations against Barros as “calumny” and insisted he had never heard from any victims.

Even when told in his airborne press conference Jan. 21 that Karadima’s victims had indeed placed Barros at the scene of Karadima’s abuse, Francis said: “No one has come forward. They haven’t provided any evidence for a judgment. This is all a bit vague. It’s something that can’t be accepted.”

He stood by Barros, saying: “I’m certain he’s innocent,” even while saying that he considered the testimony of victims to be “evidence” in a cover-up investigation.

Story 2

WSJ: Pope Francis to Bow to China With Concession on Bishops

Pope Francis has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government, a concession that the Holy See hopes will lead Beijing to recognize his authority as head of the Catholic Church in China, according to a person familiar with the plan.

For years, the Vatican didn’t recognize the bishops’ ordinations, which were carried out in defiance of the pope and considered illicit, part of a long-running standoff between the Catholic Church and China’s officially atheist Communist Party.

The bishops approved by the Beijing-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association are seen as more willing to toe the government’s line, or even to support a Chinese Catholic Church free of the Vatican’s influence. Several of the bishops are members of a government advisory body controlled by the Communist Party.

It would then be up to Beijing to accept a proposed agreement giving the pope veto power on future bishop candidates, whom he would approve or veto after their selection by the Chinese government. Beijing’s major condition for that agreement has been that the pope recognize the seven bishops, the person said.

The Communist Party keeps a tight grip on all religious practice, mandating that religious institutions be free of foreign control. New regulations that went into effect on Thursday require that religious institutions gain government approval for teaching plans, overseas pilgrimages and other activities.

On the other hand, a deal would represent a breakthrough: the first official recognition by the Communist government of the pope’s jurisdiction as the head of the Catholic Church in China.

Story 3

Telegraph: Pope Francis gives peace symbol as gift to president Erdogan as Turkish forces pound Kurdish militia

Pope Francis gave a symbol of peace as a gift to Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan on Monday, as Turkish forces continued their military offensive against Kurds in Syria.

The Pope and the Turkish leader had a 50-minute meeting behind closed doors, during which they discussed the situation in Syria as well as refugees in the Middle East and the Trump administration’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which they both oppose.

It was the first visit of a Turkish president to the Vatican in nearly 60 years.

After the meeting, the Pope gave Mr Erdogan a bronze medallion showing an angel embracing the world while battling a dragon.

“This is the angel of peace who strangles the demon of war,” he told the president, whose forces have been accused of grave human rights abuses in the northern Afrin region of Syria.

My Take

Full disclosure: I’m a staunch protestant. But despite doctrinal differences, I recognize the faith of Catholics who have a relationship with Jesus.

Many people had high expectations for the Pope to address and make reforms in response to the child sex abuse that is within Catholic Church. The recent article by the AP shows evidence contrary to the Pope’s initial zero tolerance stance. The Pope’s lack of zeal in dealing with a scandal that was closer to him, both geographically and through connections, demonstrates an alarming amount of hypocrisy on the issue.

The move to recognize Chinese bishops is troubling for Christians in the east. Consider a segment of this thread on Chinese persecution:

The concern with this move is that the Pope just legitimized bishops who likely have no business being bishops. Since the Communist government approved of them, the indication is clear that the “radical” teachings of the Bible will be whitewashed with government sanctioned politically correct church material. So one must wonder, how serious is the Pope taking the Great Commission? The underground church is booming by most reports and so is the persecution. By absorbing apostate Chinese churches into the Vatican, the Pope is not only doing underground Catholics a disservice but also every other denomination. China is using a can’t beat them, so lets get them to beat themselves. These state-approved Churches are detractors to faith and the Pope gave his nod to them in exchange for recognition as the head of these churches. This is naive negotiating. We all know the government will truly be the authority these bishops respond to. Whether the Pope is egotistical or naive, he’s giving the Chinese government a brand name (the Vatican) for it to control Christianity through its state-run churches.

The last story is perhaps the most dangerous. Not only is it demonstrating a high amount of hypocrisy, or at very least inconsistency, in Pope Francis’s beliefs, but it could have more eternal/providential implications. Pope Francis met with Turkish President Erdoğan after his military commenced Operation Olive Branch to terrorize Kurds in Syria. Instead of confronting his attack on the Kurds, the Pope gave this dictator a medal of peace. What’s worse is that the Pope is basically being a tool for which Turkey can advance its Islamism. While the Pope scolded America, on Christmas, for moving it’s Israeli Embassy, Turkey announced it’s opening a Palistinean Embassy in Jerusalem, unscathed by the Vatican. Who’s side is the Pope on? Is he on the side of Jesus or Muhammad? This is a serious question. The Pope pushing to divide Israel only furthers the latter’s cause. As noted in my scathing critique of Paul Nelen’s antisemitism, Jesus will return to save Israel and nations will be judged. It is my understanding that Catholics believe in the second coming like the rest of Christianity. Why then would Pope Francis cozy up to a man bent on forming the next Caliphate?

A Kurdish pastor said something which is a bit of a wake up call: Turkey is a bigger threat to Israel than Iran. In truth, we cannot say for certain when the end-times are but soon. Turkey is a big player and Erdoğan has risen to the world arena, ending Turkey’s Kamalism in favor of Islamism. He could establish a caliphate through his neo-Ottoman pursuit. His land grabs in Syria are at very least a display of power. This is not the type of behavior the Pope should promote. Many opponents call the Pope Francis the Antichrist. He’s not, but he did just give a peace medal to the current front-runner.

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Foreign Affairs

With ISIS defeated, it’s time to bring the troops home

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With ISIS defeated its time to bring the troops home

In the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, much was made of the threat of ISIS.  Wild threats abounded as candidates fought each other over who would come down harder on the then-thriving Islamic State.

Sen. Ted Cruz threatened to “carpet bomb (ISIS) into oblivion”.

Now-President Trump promised to “bomb the (expletive) out of ‘em.”

Former Secretary of State and presidential participation trophy winner Hillary Clinton added the possibility of war with Russia by insisting on a no-fly zone over Syria.

And who could forget neocon mascot Senators Rick Santorum and Lindsey Graham engaging in what amounted to a bidding war over who would dump more American ground troops into the Middle East?

But since the Trump administration clunked into gear a year ago, news about ISIS has grown more and more sparse, with the latest revelation buried under coverage of the President’s latest Twitter meltdown:

ISIS is gone.

Over the course of the last year, ISIS has been destroyed by increased airstrikes, and coalition armies have systematically liberated ISIS-held territory across Iraq, to the point that both the Iraqi and Iranian governments have declared victory over the self-appointed caliphate.

Of course this is wonderful news for Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds, and everyone else oppressed by the brutal black-flagged regime.

But will it mean good news for American families?

Out of 1.3 million active US military personnel, about 450,000 are deployed overseas.  That’s right – nearly half a million Americans are deployed at over 600 bases in at least 130 different countries, at a time when we have exactly zero declared wars.

When are they coming home?

The victory over ISIS, while encouraging, doesn’t remotely put the War on Terror to bed.  Aside from the thousands of soldiers still fighting America’s longest war in Afghanistan and mopping up ISIS in Iraq and Syria, we have hundreds of even thousands of American troops in places like Norway and Poland, and a large Air Force presence in Somalia.  

The last time the United States actually fought a Congressionally-declared war was in WWII, and that’s important because in the absence of a congressional declaration, we have slowly built up a perpetual military presence around the world, with no end in sight.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

The Constitution vested the power to declare war with Congress alone, so that the people’s representatives would get a say in our decision to send Americans to die. A quick review of the last sixty years will show that, as Congress has deferred that power to the President via authorizations for use of military force (AUMFs), conflicts have started more frequently and dragged on much longer, with no defined scope or condition of victory.  As I pointed out in a recent column about Presidential Emergency Powers, ceaseless foreign conflicts and undefined potential threats have removed virtually all accountability from executive power. If the President wants a war, the President gets a war – Congress be damned.

As much as we have been conditioned to accept the presupposition that a persistent, global American military presence is necessary for our security, that’s really not the case at all. President Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex” has been largely unheeded, and it’s undeniable at this point that there are a lot of folks in both the public and private sectors who profit, either directly or indirectly, from the massive and perpetual show of American force. That profit is at least part of the reason that the United States currently spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined, nearly three times the second-place nation on the list, China.

But the $610 billion we spend for defense each year pales in comparison to the cost in human life and limb precipitated by our consistent propensity for foreign adventurism.  Since 2001, 6,930 Americans have died fighting the War on Terror, and over 52,566 have been wounded.

And that’s without factoring in the tragic epidemic of veteran suicide.

Outside the states, the death toll has been exponentially greater, with estimates ranging between one and two million dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone.

The longer a war drags on, the greater the danger that these numbers will become mere statistics, and that’s why the defeat of ISIS presents a great opportunity to change course on our reckless foreign policy. With the rise of antiwar sentiment on the conservatarian right and its slow integration into the pro-life movement there should be plenty of common ground and political will to draw down our foreign involvement.

It’s time to take advantage of the opportunity to bring our people home, before more Americans come home in body bags.

____________________________________________________________

 Article originally published in the Des Moines Register.

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