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Defeated by ISIS in Syria Erdogan calls in the US

Defeated by ISIS, frightened of Russia, Turkish President Erdogan asks the US for air support to take Al-Bab.

Alexander Mercouris

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Days after its humiliating defeat by ISIS in the struggle for the strategically important Syrian town of Al-Bab, Turkey has called on the US led international anti ISIS coalition to provide its troops who are fighting ISIS near Al-Bab with air support.

The reason for this request is – as I discussed previously – that Al-Bab lies beyond the range of Turkish long range artillery located inside Turkey, whilst the Syrians publicly, and the Russians almost certainly privately, have warned the Turks against sending their air force there.  The result is that the Turkish troops fighting ISIS near Al-Bab are critically short of artillery and air support, which was almost certainly an important reason for their recent defeat.

Turkish President Erdogan has however staked much of his prestige on capturing Al-Bab.  Beyond that, he surely feels, as must many others in Turkey, that Turkey is honour bound to avenge its recent defeat by ISIS.  Indeed Erdogan almost certainly sees the need to avenge Turkey’s defeat by ISIS as a personal matter.

Against that it seems that President Erdogan is unwilling to send Turkish artillery into Syria.  Not only would the Russians, the Syrians and the Kurdish militia the YPG see that as a serious escalation, but given the extent of ISIS’s and the YPG’s operations in northern Syria, any Turkish artillery deployed in Syria would almost certainly need protection from Turkish ground troops, many of whom are conscripts.  That might not prove popular in Turkey, where there is already concern about the extent to which Turkey is being sucked into the Syrian war.

The imperative political need to capture Al-Bab, combined with the reluctance to challenge the Syrians and the Russians in the air, or to confront ISIS and the YPG with Turkish conscripts on the ground, explains the request to the US.  Whilst Turkey may fear the consequences of sending its own air force into action over Al-Bab, it probably calculates – almost certainly rightly – that the mighty US air force can operate there, and provide the Turkish army with the necessary air support, without having to fear interference from the Russians.

Whether the US will accede to this Turkish request is another matter.

Turkey’s attempt to capture Al-Bab is strongly opposed by the Syrian government and by the Kurdish militia the YPG.

The Syrian government undoubtedly sees Turkey’s attempt to capture Al-Bab as an attempt by the Turks to enlarge and consolidate the ‘safe zone’ they have been trying to create for their Jihadi proxies in northern Syria.  In addition, capturing Al-Bab further secures the supply lines between Turkey and the Jihadis in Syria, including those now concentrated in Idlib, whilst Al-Bab itself is too close to Aleppo for comfort.

As for the Kurds, Turkey’s capture of Al-Bab would have the effect of keeping the areas of Syria under YPG control divided from each other, whilst opening the way for the Turkish army to advance on the YPG controlled town of Manbij.

The US will be unconcerned about any objections from the Syrian government.  The Kurds are however another matter.  Various US intelligence agencies having heavily invested in the YPG, which they have been trying to build up into a ‘third force’ to pit against both the Syrian government and ISIS.   Calls for the US led anti ISIS coalition to provide air support to a Turkish military operation that is at least in part ultimately targeted at the YPG are bound therefore to encounter objections.

Beyond that there are also likely to be objections not just from within the US but also from some of the US’s European allies that the anti ISIS coalition of which they are also a part should not be diverted from its task of defeating ISIS in order to facilitate specific Turkish national goals.

Against that, with Russia inviting Turkey to co-sponsor a peace conference in Astana to settle the Syrian conflict, and with relations between Russia and Turkey appearing to grow ever closer, the US must calculate that simply turning down the Turkish request will make Turkey turn even more to Russia.

Irrespective of how the US responds to Turkey’s request, this episode once again highlights the essentially manipulative nature of President Erdogan’s foreign policy with respect to Russia.

Where following Russian warnings a more prudent politician in Erdogan’s position might have have backed off trying to capture Al-Bab, Erdogan has instead doubled down, ordering his army to capture Al-Bab, regardless of any concerns the Russians might have.  Moreover he is prepared to call in the US to help him do it, in open defiance of the Russians, and in a way that he must know is bound to annoy them.

This probably reflects the deep feelings of resentment which President Erdogan by now almost certainly privately feels towards the Russians.

Turkey’s difficult economic situation, the hostility to him and to Turkey of much of the West, and the defeat of Turkey’s Jihadi proxies in Aleppo, means that Erdogan probably feels that he has no real choice for the moment but to draw closer to Russia.  However doing so is ultimately incompatible with his anti-Assad policy in Syria, to which he remains personally deeply committed, and which he is not prepared to sacrifice.  Moreover there are signs that his large Islamist base within Turkey feels the same way.

Calling in the Americans is for Erdogan and for Turkey almost certainly not just a way of solving their immediate problems in Al-Bab, but is also a way of showing to the Russians that Turkey remains independent of them, and that if the Russians push Turkey too far, it have other options.

 

 

 

 

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4 resignations and counting: May’s government ‘falling apart before our eyes’ over Brexit deal

The beginning of the end for Theresa May’s government.

The Duran

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Via RT


Four high profile resignations have followed on the heels of Theresa May’s announcement that her cabinet has settled on a Brexit deal, with Labour claiming that the Conservative government is at risk of completely dissolving.

Shailesh Vara, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office was the first top official to resign after the prime minister announced that her cabinet had reached a draft EU withdrawal agreement.

An hour after his announcement, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab – the man charged with negotiating and finalizing the deal – said he was stepping down, stating that the Brexit deal in its current form suffers from deep flaws. Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, submitted her letter of resignation shortly afterwards. More resignations have followed.

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister, Jon Trickett, predicted that this is the beginning of the end for May’s government.

The government is falling apart before our eyes as for a second time the Brexit secretary has refused to back the prime minister’s Brexit plan. This so-called deal has unraveled before our eyes

Shailesh Vara: UK to be stuck in ‘a half-way house with no time limit’

Kicking off Thursday’s string of resignations, Vara didn’t mince words when describing his reservations about the cabinet-stamped Brexit deal.

Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement leaves the UK in a “halfway house with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation,” his letter of resignation states. Vara went on to warn that the draft agreement leaves a number of critical issues undecided, predicting that it “will take years to conclude” a trade deal with the bloc.

“We will be locked in a customs arrangement indefinitely, bound by rules determined by the EU over which we have no say,” he added.

Dominic Raab: Deal can’t be ‘reconciled’ with promises made to public

Announcing his resignation on Thursday morning, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted: “I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU.”

Raab claimed that the deal in its current form gives the EU veto power over the UK’s ability to annul the deal.

No democratic nation has ever signed up to be bound by such an extensive regime.

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said that Raab’s resignation as Brexit secretary is “devastating” for May.

“It sounds like he has been ignored,” he told the BBC.

Raab’s departure will undoubtedly encourage other Brexit supporters to question the deal, political commentators have observed.

Esther McVey: Deal ‘does not honor’ Brexit referendum

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey didn’t hold back when issuing her own letter of resignation. According to McVey, the deal “does not honour” the result of the Brexit referendum, in which a majority of Brits voted to leave the European Union.

Suella Braverman: ‘Unable to sincerely support’ deal

Suella Braverman, a junior minister in Britain’s Brexit ministry, issued her resignation on Thursday, saying that she couldn’t stomach the deal.

“I now find myself unable to sincerely support the deal agreed yesterday by cabinet,” she said in a letter posted on Twitter.

Suella Braverman, MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU © Global Look Press / Joel Goodman
Braverman said that the deal is not what the British people voted for, and threatened to tear the country apart.

“It prevents an unequivocal exit from a customs union with the EU,” she said.

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Five Saudis Face Death Penalty Over Khashoggi Killing; Crown Prince Cleared

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”

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Via Zerohedge


Saudi Arabia public prosecutor Sheikh Shaalan al-Shaalan said on Thursday that the kingdom will seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 11 charged in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, confirming suspicions that members of the murder squad purportedly sent to “interrogate” Khashoggi will now themselves face beheadings as the Saudi Royal Family closes ranks around the Crown Prince, per the FT.

As for Mohammed bin Salman who runs the day to day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter and is the de facto head of OPEC, the prosecutor said had “no knowledge” of the mission, effectively absolving him of any domestic suspicion, if not international.

The charges were handed down after the kingdom dismissed five senior intelligence officers and arrested 18 Saudi nationals in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance. The Saudi insider-turned-dissident journalist disappeared on Oct. 2 after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to pick up documents that would have allowed him to marry his fiance. Khashoggi was a legal resident of Virginia.

According to the Saudi prosecutor, five people charged are believed to have been involved in “ordering and executing the crime,” according to CNN.

The prosecutor said that the former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the Saudi Public Prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The Saudis stuck by latest (ever changing) narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom, Shaalan said. The team killed him after the talks failed and his body was handed to a “collaborator” in Turkey, he said.

Asked whether Saud al-Qahtanti, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shaalan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges.

Al-Shaalan did reveal that a total of 21 suspects are now being held in connection with the case. Notably, the decision to charge the 5 comes after National Security Advisor John Bolton repudiated reports that a recording of Khashoggi’s murder made by Turkish authorities suggested that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was behind the murder plot.

But as long as OPEC+ is planning to do “whatever it takes” to boost oil prices, the US’s willingness to give the Saudis a pass could always be tested if crude prices again turn sharply higher.

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U.S. May Impose Sanctions Against Turkey Over S-400 “Threat” To F-35

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform.

The Duran

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Authored by Al Masdar News:


Turkish officials have repeatedly insisted that Ankara’s purchase of the advanced Russian air defense system poses no threat whatsoever to the NATO alliance. Last month, the Turkish defense ministry announced that delivery of S-400s to Turkey would begin in October 2019.

The United States continues to consider the S-400 air defense system a threat to its F-35 fifth generation stealth fighter platform, and may impose sanctions against Ankara, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency has reported, citing a high-ranking source in Washington.

“I can’t say for certain whether sanctions will be imposed on Ankara over the S-400 contract, but the possibility is there. The US administration is not optimistic about this issue,” the source said.

While admitting that Turkey was a sovereign state and therefore had the right to make decisions on whom it buys its weapons from, the source stressed that from the perspective of these weapons’ integration with NATO systems, the S-400 was “problematic.”

The source also characterized the deployment of S-400s in areas where US F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighters are set to fly as “a threat,” without elaborating.

Emphasizing that negotiations between Washington and Ankara on the issue were “continuing,” the source said that there were also “positive tendencies” in negotiations between the two countries on the procurement of the Patriot system, Washington’s closest analogue to the S-400 in terms of capabilities.

Designed to stop enemy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles at ranges of up to 400 km and altitudes of up to 30 km, the S-400 is currently the most advanced mobile air defense system in Russia’s arsenal. Russia and India signed a ruble-denominated contract on the delivery of five regiments of S-400s worth $5 billion late last month.

Last week, the Saudi Ambassador to Russia said that talks on the sale of the system to his country were ongoing. In addition to Russia, S-400s are presently operated by Belarus and China, with Beijing expecting another delivery of S-400s by 2020.

Washington has already slapped China with sanctions over its purchase of S-400s and Su-35 combat aircraft in September. India, however, has voiced confidence that it would not be hit with similar restrictions, which the US Treasury has pursued under the 2017 Counter America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

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