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Trump adviser outlines conditions for US pullout from Syria

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Trump adviser outlines conditions for US pullout from Syria

JERUSALEM (AP) — President Donald Trump’s national security adviser said Sunday that the American military withdrawal from northeastern Syria is conditioned on defeating the remnants of the Islamic State group and on Turkey assuring the safety of U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

John Bolton said there is no timetable for the pullout, but insisted the military presence is not an unlimited commitment.

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem before heading to Turkey on Monday, where he will be joined by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Those conditions, he said, included defeating what’s left of IS in Syria and protecting Kurdish militias who have fought alongside U.S. troops against the extremist group.

Bolton’s comments were the first public confirmation that the drawdown has been slowed. Trump had faced widespread criticism from allies about his decision, announced in mid-December, that he was pulling all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria. Officials said at the time that although many details of the withdrawal had not yet been finalized, they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.

“We’re pulling out of Syria,” Trump said Sunday at the White House. “But we’re doing it and we won’t be finally pulled out until ISIS is gone.”

Trump’s move, which led to the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, has raised fears over clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurdish fighters. Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders.

Bolton said the U.S. is insisting that its Kurdish allies in Syria are protected from any planned Turkish offensive — a warning he was expected to deliver to Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, this week.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States,” Bolton said. He said that in upcoming meetings with Turkish officials he will seek “to find out what their objectives and capabilities are and that remains uncertain.”

Trump has made clear that he would not allow Turkey to kill the Kurds, Bolton said. “That’s what the president said, the ones that fought with us.”

Bolton said the U.S. has asked the Kurds to “stand fast now” and refrain from seeking protection from Russia or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. “I think they know who their friends are,” he added, speaking of the Kurds.

Jim Jeffrey, the special representative for Syrian engagement and the newly named American special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, is to travel to Syria this coming week in an effort to reassure the Kurdish fighters that they are not being abandoned, Bolton said.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman called allegations that his country planned to attack the U.S.-allied Kurds in Syria “irrational” and said Turkey was fighting terrorism for national security.

In comments carried by the official Anadolu news agency, Ibrahim Kalin said the Kurdish fighters oppressed Syrian Kurds and pursued a separatist agenda under the guise of fighting IS. “That a terror organization cannot be allied with the U.S. is self-evident,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” that the conditions raised by Bolton were “obvious,” and Smith criticized the conflicting messages from the Trump administration.

“We don’t want ISIS to rise again and be a transnational terrorist threat and we don’t want our allies, the Kurds, to be slaughtered by Erdogan in Turkey,” said Smith, D-Wash.

Bolton said U.S. troops would remain at the critical area of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region. He defended the legal basis for the deployment, saying it’s justified by the president’s constitutional authority.

The U.S. is also seeking a “satisfactory disposition” for roughly 800 IS prisoners held by the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition, Bolton said, adding talks were ongoing with European and regional partners about the issue.

Bolton was to have dinner with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on Sunday to discuss the pace of the U.S. drawdown, American troop levels in the region, and the U.S. commitment to push back on Iranian regional expansionism.

Bolton was expected to explain that some U.S. troops based in Syria to fight IS will shift to Iraq with the same mission and that the al-Tanf base would remain.

Bolton also was to convey the message that the United States is “very supportive” of Israeli strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, according to a senior administration official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss Bolton’s plans before the meetings and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Bolton on Sunday also toured the ancient tunnels beneath the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. He watched a virtual reality tour of the historic site and dined there with his Israeli equivalent, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer.

Visiting American officials typically avoid holding official meetings in parts of east Jerusalem, which is contested between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump, however, also toured the area in a previous visit.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem after capturing it from Jordan in the 1967 war, a move not recognized by most of the international community. Palestinians seek east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

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Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul and Catherine Lucey in Washington contributed to this report.

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Foreign Affairs

Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela, Biden’s world tour, Hezbollah, and Israel

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Mike Pompeo responds to Venezuela Bidens world tour Hezbollah and Israel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared on Fox News last night to talk to Shannon Bream about the tumultuous state of affairs around the world and how the United States is handling them.

First, he discussed Venezuela and recent developments where Nicolas Maduro’s regime has essentially framed members of Juan Guaido’s team in an effort to jail and stop the opposition to his presidency there. The Secretary of State said they would hold Maduro’s regime accountable for their actions, but would not elaborate on how U.S. intervention in the poverty-torn nation would manifest.

He jabbed at potential Democratic 2020 candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden, who is being allegedly courted by world leaders to run for the White House in hopes he could bring back proper relations. As Pompeo noted, our relations with world leaders is in a current state of positive action despite the President’s harsh stance with many of them.

As for Hezbollah, Pompeo said the U.S. would press Lebanon for the sake of its people to facilitate change from the anti-Israel, anti-American Hezbollah rule that has basically made the nation a pawn for Iran.

As for the Israel front. where Pompeo was speaking from, he said calls by people like Beto O’Rourke and others to undermine the conservative base shared by the United States and Israel would not help the situation. Only through the President’s peace plan can the Middle East move forward, according to Pompeo.

My Take

Until the Venezuelan government asks directly for help, there should be no action by the United States other than aid for the people. This is an internal affair. Just because the leadership is challenged doesn’t make it our problem. If there was ever a time when the United Nations should flex its puny muscles, that time is now and the place is Venezuela.

Any foreign leaders calling on Biden to replace Trump are doing so because they do not want the United States to continue to maintain and improve upon its position of strength on the world stage. They prefer the good ol’ days under President Obama when the United States was a pawn for many other nations.

Hezbollah must go. That’s not to say we need to be involved with that, but Lebanon will never be free and prosperous as long as they’re the proxy for Iran.

Lastly, the Secretary of State seemed to be echoing a notion that the President would push for a 2-state solution. If that’s the case, it’s a huge mistake. Otherwise, Pompeo is correct in asserting the backwards notions of the Democrats lashing out against President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

We’re in a time when foreign affairs are starting to take center stage. Yes, we have problems of our own, but to ignore the growing threats abroad would be a mistake. It’s good the administration is handling these issues.

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Foreign Affairs

Kudos to the President for calling on the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights

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Kudos to the President for calling on the US to recognize Israels sovereignty over the Golan Heights

It’s always hard to tell where the administration may be going following policy Tweets from the President. He’s been known to say one thing, then the administration slowly shifts reality away from the initial intent of the Tweet. On the other hand, many of his Tweets have turned into policy. It’s just a matter of waiting and seeing what the official word from the White House is.

In this case, it’s the President’s bold declaration that the Golan Heights, considered by enemies of Israel to be disputed territory, is actually sovereign Israeli land. As he noted in the Tweet, this is long overdue.

Considering the stances the President has been taking on Twitter this week with sustained attacks on George Conway and John McCain, this is a breath of fresh air. If Israel ever gave up he Golan Heights, they would be losing one of the most important strategic areas through which enemy militaries could easily become entrenched and launch attacks that would be difficult for Israel to counter. While the IDF enjoys technological advances over their enemies, terrain and proximity are still major factors in the defense of their lands. The Golan Heights represents a piece of land that must never be given easy access to their enemies.

There’s one important caveat to the kudos I’m giving the President. If it turns out acknowledgement of the Golan Heights as sovereign territory is used as a precursor to asking Israel to give up the West Bank in a Middle East peace agreement, then it’s a whole other situation entirely. Just as giving up the Golan Heights would make Israel a very easy target, so too would the idea of a two state solution that grants “Palestine” control over the West Bank.

If the motives are pure, this is a great move. If this is an early olive branch, it’s dangerous.

Israel’s control of the Golan Heights is absolutely essential to its security. The lands just south would be completely indefensible if the United Nations ever got its way and the Golan Heights fell under control of Israel’s enemies.

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Conspiracy Theory

Turkish President Erdoğan says Christchurch was not an individual act but rather an organized part of a wider attack on Turkey

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Turkish President Erdoğan says Christchurch was not an individual act but rather an organized part of a wider attack on Turkey

See also previous NOQ Report articles:

Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, needs to step back and look at Christchurch objectively

Was Christchurch a lone gunman or a conspiracy?

Today Radio New Zealand published an article entitled, “Erdoğan says attackers targeting Turkey will go home ‘in caskets’“.

Following are pertinent excerpts:

“President Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday described a mass shooting which killed 50 people at two New Zealand mosques as part of a wider attack on Turkey and threatened to send back ‘in caskets’ anyone who tried to take the battle to Istanbul.”

“‘They are testing us from 16,500km away, from New Zealand, with the messages they are giving from there. This isn’t an individual act, this is organised,’ he said.”

The Turkish tyrant, in reference to the “1915 Gallipoli campaign, when Ottoman soldiers defeated British-led forces including Australian and New Zealand troops trying to seize the peninsula, a gateway to Istanbul,” told today’s citizens of New Zealand and Australia: “Your grandparents came here … and they returned in caskets.”

“He has said the gunman issued threats against Turkey and the president, and wanted to drive Turks from Turkey’s northwestern, European region.”

“‘You will not turn Istanbul into Constantinople,’ he added, referring to the city’s name under its Christian Byzantine rulers before it was conquered by Muslim Ottomans in 1453.”

The RNZ article confirms that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu was in Christchurch and visited Turkish citizens wounded in the attack.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is no friend of New Zealand, Australia or the United States of America. As former Prime Minister and current President of Turkey, he has transformed his NATO-member country from a staunch ally into an ideological, political and military adversary of western nations, Israel and Christians throughout the Middle East.

Erdoğan’s delusions of grandeur revolve around restoring the Ottoman Empire as a new Islamic Caliphate and enthroning himself as new Caliph. That is the only reason he ever opposed ISIS as it was a competitor for control of the Sunni Dar ul-Islam.

The Christchurch gunman is obviously a very conflicted man with many competing concepts and objectives. We will not reward his evil bloodshed by recognizing him by name here.

The perpetrator could have been manipulated by those with motives different from his own. That’s why the report about the suspicions of Turkish intelligence is so significant.

See previous RNZ article:

Turkish intelligence investigating Christchurch accused – report

There are factions in Turkey who oppose Erdoğan for reasons of their own, altruism not being among them. Consider a young uneducated Aussie traveling throughout the world seeking to define himself and to find a cause to champion.

In Turkey and the Balkans, he learns about the Ottoman Empire and the assault of Islam on Europe centuries ago. He comes in contact with elements in Turkey that see a conduit through which they can accomplish their own different objectives.

The young fellow from Grafton, New South Wales believes an armed assault on Muslims during Friday prayers in a city named Christchurch across the Tasman Sea in New Zealand will further his own concepts of white supremacy and that it will suppress Muslim immigration. But elements in Turkey see this as a way to instantly change the narrative and remove the focus on Islamic Jihad as a world threat, substituting a mad rush of useful idiots in western governments to come to the aid of Muslim victims of religious bigotry.

Today, a 37-year-old Turkish male killed three and wounded five on a tram in Utrecht, Netherlands. Europe is under siege. Alas, this is far more common in the world than the anomaly in Christchurch! But politicians will continue to beat their breasts and say we ♡ diversity. Diversity and open borders are who we are. Welcoming the unvetted world is our raison d’être.

We’ll conclude today with an urgent reminder:

There is reason for New Zealand authorities to put your political correctness aside and mount serious international investigations of the Christchurch gunman’s potential handlers in Turkey. Censorship and gun grabs in NZ will not keep you safe if this was orchestrated abroad.

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