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Trump Administration scolds counter-terror offensive in Syria’s Idlib province, ignores Afrin

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Trump Administration scolds counter-terror offensive in Syrias Idlib province ignores Afrin

The Syrian Civil War is all but over. President Assad, with the intense assistance of Russia and Iran, has relegated the jihadi opposition to Syria’s northeast. The war between the Syrian government and the Islamic terrorists rebel groups has been at a simmer since they surrendered their besieged holdings near the country’s capital back in April. The terrorist-rebels are consolidated to the Syria’s northeast Idlib province, bordering territory held by Turkish backed terrorists in Afrin. Turkey seized land as part of its Euphrates Shield and Operation Olive Branch offensives.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!

Donald Trump

On September 4th, Russia resumed airstrikes on Idlib prompting many to speculate an offensive is near. Secretary Pompeo had a phone call with President Ergodan both expressing that an offensive in Idlib would be unacceptable.

The looming offensive raises concerns about shifting conventions of warfare, specifically that involving the use of chemical weapons. Tom Rogan of Washington Examiner writes

U.S. intelligence sees evidence Bashar Assad will use chemical weapons in Idlib. Bolstering this suspicion is Vladimir Putin’s strategic interests: He wants Assad to employ chemical weapons in order to degrade American credibility. Russia will try to present any chemical attack as the result of a western-supported conspiracy to blame Assad. While this deception is simplistic, it indicates that Russia both expects Assad to use chemical weapons and has given its tacit blessing for him to do so.

In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, when the enemy is outnumbered 10 to 1, capture them. When an enemy is outnumbered 5 to 1 attack. HTS finds itself in closer to a 5 to 1 situation and are unwilling to preemptively surrender. A massive humanitarian crisis is inevitable, and conventions of war permissible by the United Nations have proven ineffective. No nation benefits from a prolonged war, something Sun Tzu also said. In contrast, the terrorist stronghold in Aleppo crumbled when Russia and Syria specifically targeted facilities functioning as hospitals. In April, rebels surrendered after being attacked with chemical weapons. The counterterrorism measure prompted a US military response. Syria and Russia know that these brutalities will be necessary to wipe away Islamic terrorists in their fortified stronghold of Idlib and will be.

Meanwhile the Trump administration’s attention towards one humanitarian crisis sheds light on the one they’ve ignored. Turkey has been occupying Afrin with the assistance of jihadists they backed. The Kurdish YPG have been turned into freedom fighters as reports of ISIS like atrocities spring from the region.

The Region details the situation:

Occupying militias are known to have kidnapped and tortured over a thousand civilians, especially those with any relationship to the autonomous self-administration of Afrin Canton. Local collaborators have reportedly provided militias with lists of Afrin residents whose families would be able to afford large ransoms.

The videos are reminiscent of those produced by ISIS when the group first overran parts of Iraq and Syria. It has been alleged that Turkey used ex-ISIS members in Operation Olive Branch, and videos of Olive Branch forces singing ISIS nasheeds, interrogating civilians about Muslim religious practices to determine their faith, and threatening to behead “infidel Kurds” circulated widely during the invasion.

The Trump administration has made little mention of the Afrin region even as relations with Turkey plummet due to their capturing of an American citizen. The war in Syria now hang in the balance of negotiations between Syria, Iran, Russia, and Turkey. The established nations have not engaged each other and have set up numerous fortresses or observation points within the country. Turkish observation points reside in the Islamists’ territories.

Concluding Thoughts

The terrorists hold too little ground to have any negotiating power. There refusal to surrender prevents a peaceful wrap up to the war. An offensive, therefore, is unavoidable. The Trump Administration appears to be more interested in keeping the status quo of the war which is opposed to the interest of the Syria and their people. Perhaps the offensive will be swift, but Sun Tzu also says to allow the enemy the ability to retreat. The Islamic terrorists are almost out of room to retreat, unless they want to work for Ergodan. The Trump administration is right to be concerned for Al-Qaeda’s Last Stand in Syria being dangerous to civilians, but wrong in their indifference towards the Islamic terrorism in the region.

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Foreign Affairs

Time to hit Turkey with more sanctions

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Time to hit Turkey with more sanctions

U.S. sanctions against Turkey were just announced yesterday. Some may believe this means we wait to see if Ankira will do anything different in Syria. Nope. It’s time to hit them with more sanctions. Why? Because they didn’t blink. They didn’t respond. They didn’t immediately call off their invasion while on the phone with Washington DC asking for sanctions to end.

In fact, the Lira actually rose as the world is essentially doubting the sanctions will have an effect. Therefore, it’s time to hit them with harsher sanctions immediately. There’s no reason to wait and see what Turkey does. They’re still heading down the same path.

Turkish lira up as Trump tariff threats are less serious than expected

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/15/turkish-lira-up-as-trump-tariff-threats-are-less-serious-than-expected.htmlDUBAI — Turkish assets are breathing a sigh of relief after tariffs threatened by President Donald Trump over Ankara’s military offensive in Syria came up less serious than markets had expected.

Turkey’s lira rose in Tuesday morning trading on the back of a statement by Trump promising a 50% tariff on Turkish steel imports and a halt to trade negotiations between Ankara and Washington — penalties that analysts are calling “window dressing.”

The dollar was down 1% against the lira for the session, with the Turkish currency trading at 5.8628 per dollar at 8 a.m. London time on Tuesday.

This is not a situation in which we can try to wait them out. We don’t have time to let the sanctions percolate and degrade the Turkish economy. We need their economy to lurch as a result of U.S. actions. Anything short of an economic punch in the nose is meaningless and will only embolden Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan even further.

These sanctions amounted to a diplomatic love tap. Yes, they’re a NATO ally. Yes, we have two important bases there that include 50 tactical nuclear weapons. But right now we’re looking like paper tigers, even on the economic front where we’re supposed to be the ominous masters of the world. This is unacceptable. We need to hit them much harder if we want to get anyone’s attention and stop this invasion from escalating unnecessarily.

Turkey is laughing at us following the first round of sanctions. Yesterday’s move was not the economy-crushing blow that would dissuade Turkey from continuing their rapid invasion of Syria. It was barely a warning shot. We need to hit them much harder immediately.

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Entertainment and Sports

Charlie Kirk tells Lebron James exactly how he (and many of us) feels

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Charlie Kirk to Lebron James

NBA star Lebron James has enjoyed a career that will put him in the Basketball Hall of Fame and have his name cemented among the best players of all time. But he has also established himself as a controversial figure at times, saying things that make some people question why he dives into discussions that are clearly above his mental pay grade. His most recent excursion into world politics was to address the China issue that has plagued the NBA for two weeks.

As expected, his perspective is disingenuous, self-serving, and generally wrong.

James attempted to backtrack on his statement by claiming he was referring to the timing of the Tweet made by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey expressing support for Hong Kong in their plight against Communist China. The Tweet came as some NBA teams were going to China to play exhibition games for the burgeoning basketball audience in the biggest country in the world, and James believed Morey should have waited a week before sending the Tweets.

This is actually worse than attacking the substance of the Tweet because it means James doesn’t really care about the substance of the issue. He doesn’t care that people are being persecuted for demanding the freedom their city once enjoyed. He doesn’t care that the best time for Morey to post the Tweet was BEFORE the NBA made their trip, not afterwards when it would have very little effect.

Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk weighed in and expressed an opinion that matches what many patriots are feeling about the Los Angeles Lakers’ forward. Shying away from controversy to not disturb James’s perfect little world is exactly why the NBA is a mess right now.

Pretty harsh words. Also pretty spot on.

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Foreign Affairs

Trump orders Turkey sanctions; US scrambles for Syria exit

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Trump orders Turkey sanctions US scrambles for Syria exit

WASHINGTON (AP) — Targeting Turkey’s economy, President Donald Trump announced sanctions Monday aimed at restraining the Turks’ assault against Kurdish fighters and civilians in Syria — an assault Turkey began after Trump announced he was moving U.S. troops out of the way.

The United States also called on Turkey to stop the invasion, and Trump is sending Vice President Mike Pence to the region in an attempt to begin negotiations. Pence said Trump spoke directly to Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the United States of American wants Turkey to stop the invasion, implement an immediate ceasefire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence,” Pence said.

The Americans were scrambling for Syria’s exits, a move criticized at home and abroad as opening the door to a resurgence of the Islamic State group whose violent takeover of Syrian and Iraq lands five years ago was the reason American forces came in the first place.

Trump said the approximately 1,000 U.S. troops who had been partnering with local Kurdish fighters to battle IS in northern Syria are leaving the country. They will remain in the Middle East, he said, to “monitor the situation” and to prevent a revival of IS — a goal that even Trump’s allies say has become much harder as a result of the U.S. pullout.

The Turks began attacks in Syria last week against the Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom the Turks see as terrorists. On Monday, Syrian government troops moved north toward the border region, setting up a potential clash with Turkish-led forces.

Trump said Turkey’s invasion is “precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes,” a reference to reports of Turkish-backed fighters executing Kurdish fighters on the battlefield.

The Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a deal with President Bashar Assad’s government to help them fend off Turkey’s invasion, a move that brings Russian forces deeper into the conflict.

In his sanctions announcement, Trump said he was halting trade negotiations with Turkey and raising steel tariffs. He said he would soon sign an order permitting sanctions to be imposed on current and former Turkish officials.

“I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path,” Trump said.

American troops consolidated their positions in northern Syria on Monday and prepared to evacuate equipment in advance of a full withdrawal, a U.S. defense official said.

The official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said U.S. officials were weighing options for a potential future counter-IS campaign, including the possibility of waging it with a combination of air power and special operations forces based outside of Syria, perhaps in Iraq.

The hurried preparations for a U.S. exit were triggered by Trump’s decision Saturday to expand a limited troop pullout into a complete withdrawal.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he would travel to NATO headquarters in Brussels next week to urge European allies to impose “diplomatic and economic measures” against Turkey — a fellow NATO ally — for what Esper called Ankara’s “egregious” actions.

Esper said Turkey’s incursion had created unacceptable risk to U.S. forces in northern Syria and “we also are at risk of being engulfed in a broader conflict.”

The only exception to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria is a group of perhaps 200 troops who will remain at a base called Tanf in southern Syria near the Jordanian border along the strategically important Baghdad-to-Damascus highway. Those troops work with Syrian opposition forces unrelated to the Kurdish-led fighters in northern Syria.

Esper said the U.S. withdrawal would be done carefully to protect the troops and to ensure that no U.S. equipment was left behind. He declined to say how long that might take.

In a series of tweets Monday, Trump defended his gamble that pulling U.S. forces out of Syria would not weaken U.S. security and credibility. He took sarcastic swipes at critics who say his Syria withdrawal amounts to a betrayal of the Kurds and plays into the hands of Russia.

“Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte,” he wrote. “I hope they all do great, we are 7,000 miles away!”

Trump has dug in on his decision to pull out the troops, believing it fulfills a key campaign promise and will be a winning issue in the 2020 election, according to White House officials.

This has effectively ended a five-year effort to partner with Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to ensure a lasting defeat of the Islamic State group. Hundreds of IS supporters escaped a holding camp amid clashes between invading Turkish-led forces and Kurdish fighters, and analysts said an IS resurgence seemed more likely, just months after Trump declared the extremists defeated.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell, normally a staunch Trump supporter, said he was “gravely concerned” by events in Syria and Trump’s response so far.

Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria “would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS,” he said in a statement. “And such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the United States’ strategic interests.”

However, Trump got quick support from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who had lambasted his withdrawal decision last week as “shortsighted,” ″irresponsible” and “unnerving to its core.” On Monday, echoing Trump, Graham said on Fox News Channel that the current situation was Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fault and Turkey would face “crippling sanctions” from the U.S. on its economy.

Pence said the sanctions announced Monday were only the beginning “unless Turkey is willing to embrace a ceasefire, come to the negotiating table and end the violence.”

The Kurds have turned to the Syrian government and Russia for military assistance, further complicating the battlefield.

The prospect of enhancing the Syrian government’s position on the battlefield and inviting Russia to get more directly involved is seen by Trump’s critics as a major mistake. But he tweeted that it shouldn’t matter.

“Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other,” he wrote. “Let them!”

New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Trump is weakening America. ’To be clear, this administration’s chaotic and haphazard approach to policy by tweet is endangering the lives of U.S. troops and civilians,” Menendez said in a statement.

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AP writer Jonathan Lemire contributed to this story.

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