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New Russia-Kurdish agreement is good for Syria and for Turkey

Russia has mastered the final diplomatic frontier among competing factions in the Syrian peace process.

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Social media and Turkish media has been ablaze over the last few days, with rumours swirling that the Russian military and Kurdish YPG militias in Syria have “struck a deal”.

In reality, Russia and the Kurds have come to an agreement in respect of certain areas east of the Euphrates whereby Kurdish militias will “provide security” for Russian forces now operating in a region that previously had been dominated by the United States and its proxies.

According to a statement from The Russian Center for Syria’s reconciliation,

“Co-chair of the committee Nuri Mahmud, who represents the Kurdish militias, stated that the Kurdish units were ready to ensure the security of the Russian servicemen, deployed along the eastern shore of the Euphrates”.

From a military and logistical standpoint, the agreement is meaningless for two reasons. First of all, there is hardly anyone left to fight in Eastern Syria and secondly, because Russia doesn’t require the kind of “security” the Kurdish militas could attempt to provide in the first place.

The agreement therefore is a political one that is cleverly disguised as a military one. Here’s why: 

1. Taking advantage of US “treachery”

When US President Trump promised Turkish President Erdogan that Washington will no longer send arms to Kurdish militias in Syria, many inclining the Turkish Foreign Minister who announced Trump’s promise to the world, had doubts about America’s sincerity. Statements from both US and Kurdish official subsequent to the statement by the Turkish Foreign Minister, have only increased the distrust.

The brief thaw in Turkey-US relations that stemmed from the phone-call, was at best a 48 hour period when quiet scepticism replaced scathing anti-US statements from major Turkish officials, including President Erdogan. That brief re-honeymoon, is now over.

Because Turkey has clearly decided that Donald Trump’s “promise” was at best incomplete and otherwise a total lie, Erdogan has just slammed the US on several fronts from supporting the hated and illegal Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), to exercising arbitrary justice against Turks in US courts, to threatening Turkey over its lawful relations with Iran–and these are just the highlights.

While Turkey feels betrayed by a USA which still arms the Kurds, the Kurds themselves feel betrayed by a US which openly plays fast and loose with an alliance that clearly is one of convenience for the US, rather than one of meaning or purpose.

Because of this, many leftist Kurds have searched their collective memories and remembered a Soviet Union which was generally supportive and a modern Russia that while not supportive of Kurdish ethno-nationalism, has always been restrained (at times surprisingly so) in condemning Kurdish movements whose existences predates the illegal US invasion of Syria.

In summary, the Kurds have learned what all parties in the Middle East have learned: Russia does what it says and the US does not.

2. Russia helping to solve a Turkish problem 

Turkey continues to position its military against Kurdish forces in and around parts of the Idlib and Aleppo Governorates of Syria and Russia has done nothing to stop them. At the same time, Russia has listened to Turkey when Ankara has stated that it is willing to sit with Kurds at the forthcoming peace conference in Sochi, so long as they are not the PKK aligned YPG/PYD.

While the Kurdish forces Russia is speaking to are YPG forces, Russia may well be preparing to “moderate” the Kurds to the satisfaction of both Syria and Turkey who have an nearly identical disdain for the radical group. If Russia can turn elements of the militarily over-rated YPG into a moderate force that can accept a shallow victory instead of a bloodsoaked defeat, this could be a win-win situation for Turkey and Syria, as well as the more sensible elements of the Kurdish insurgency. Russia is willing to host crypto-Takfiri groups at Sochi for the same reason.

Having previously publicly rejected the idea of forming a nation-state after witnessing the crushing of Iraqi Kurds by Iraqi armed forces with the political support of both Iran and Turkey, Syrian Kurds realise that they cannot accomplish radical secessionism alone, while the Trump phone call means that the US could drop Syrian Kurds as easily as Washington dropped Iraqi Kurds, the moment they feel that Kurdish ambitions are not in-line with US ambitions. Furthermore, Kurdish regions of Syria, are generally far beyond the defined lines of Israeli aggression. Therefore, the Zionist allies of the Syrian Kurds are of little practical use, especially in light of Turkey’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with the Israeli regime.

In this sense, Russia’s respectful relationship with Turkey, is a clearer sign to Turkey of Russia’s sincere intentions to balance all sides in regional conflicts, while the US is, in Turkish eyes (which happen to be correct), both dishonest and duplicitous. In this sense, while Turkey will still neutralise some Kurdish militants west of the Euphrates, the Russian agreement with Kurds east of the Euphrates, shows that Russia is using diplomatic tact to help solve a Turkish problem, however much it might temporarily grate Ankara to see a YPG flag beside any partner.

Turkey is neutralising the Kurds on one side, while to the east, Russia is doing the same thing through compromise and accord. The end result is that Syrian Kurds will be less likely to advocate for a radical position, knowing that the may end up with zero support if they insist on such a position. In other words, if the choice is between survival without extremism through Russia or annihilation by facing Turkey without US help, the choice becomes an obvious one, especially if Syrian Kurds are aware of the Iraqi example, which they most certainly are.

3. Pushing the US out of Syria 

One of the Trump administration’s most prominent bogus rationales for illegally maintaining an occupying force in Syria is to “aid the Kurds”. However, the Kurds now know that the US does not have their “interests” at heart as all it took as a phone call from the Turkish President for the US to declare that the Kurds should no longer be armed.

If the US loses the trust of its Kurdish proxies, while Russia gains a trust that was never specially up for grabs, Russia will have in effect, shown that as a partner of Syria and Turkey, it has never made the Kurds a promise it cannot keep, nor has it ever overtly gone against the Kurds, even when its partners have rightly stood up for their own positions which state that Kurdish ethno-nationalism threatens their security.

In this sense. Russia has partly “taken” a US ally by winning their trust through honesty and realism, all the while neutralising a threat to Turkey and Syria, by co-opting moderate elements among Kurds who may be willing to agree that a respectful agreement is better than the combination of working with a deceitful United States on the one side and getting crushed by superior Turkish forces on the other. Syria itself has recently stated that in a post-war environment, it is willing to engage in peaceful discussions with moderate Kurds about their concerns. Russia is paving the way for just such a discussion.

CONCLUSION: 

While Russia is not a Kurdish “ally”, Russia’s rhetorical neutrality in the face of Turkey’s rhetoric on the Kurds and its realism when it comes to handling Kurds may have pacified the extremist elements within Syrian Kurdish groups, set up a road map for satisfying Turkey and Syria’s security fears, and all the while taking advantage of the US exposing its own disloyalty to its most loyal proxies.

Furthermore, as the primary obstacle to a settlement in Syria is now Israeli aggression in south west Syria, it behoves all powers, to consolidate a peace effort in northern Syria, so as to free the Syrian Arab Army to bolster defences near the illegally occupied Golan Heights.

In short, Russia has turned a dirty game into a a compromise in the making, one which doesn’t make grandiose promises, but keeps the promises that are made.

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Erdogan accepts Syria DMZ off-ramp, in deal with Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The deal struck in Sochi averts a large scale Syria’s offensive on Idlib, as Turkey gives it guarantee to monitor what will effectively become a demilitarized zone.

According to the agreement, troops from Russia and Turkey will enforce a new demilitarized zone (DMZ) in Idlib, from which ISIS/Al Qaeda rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month.

Speaking alongside Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the 15 to 20 km-wide zone would be established by October 15th. The DMZ would require a complete “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib, including the rebranded Al-Qaeda affiliated Hay’et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

Putin also noted that heavy weapons would be withdrawn from the DMZ by all opposition forces by October 10th, which is a move supported by the Syrian government.

The Russian President described the agreement as a “serious result” further saying that “Russia and Turkey have confirmed their determination to counter terrorism in Syria in all its forms”.

Erdogan said both his country and Russia would carry out coordinated patrols in the demilitarized zone:

“We decided on the establishment of a region that is cleaned of weapons between the areas which are under the control of the opposition and the regime.”

“In return, we will ensure that radical groups, which we will designate together with Russia, won’t be active in the relevant area.”

According to Al Jazeera Iran’s foreign minister has hailed an agreement between Turkey and Russia to avert an assault on the Syrian rebel-held Idlib province, as an example of “responsible diplomacy”.

An agreement to halt plans for an offensive on the last major rebel-held stronghold was announced in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Monday after a meeting between the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On his Twitter account, Zarif wrote: “Intensive responsible diplomacy over the last few weeks-pursued in my visits to Ankara & Damascus, followed by the Iran-Russia-Turkey Summit in Tehran and the meeting (in) Sochi-is succeeding to avert war in #Idlib with a firm commitment to fight extremist terror. Diplomacy works.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the agreement reached in Sochi, which for now avoids full scale conflict in Idlib, Syria. Who won, who lost, and which interests were met with the DMZ agreement?

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Via Xinhuanet

An anticipated Syrian military offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib is on hold after Turkey and Russia reached a deal following Ankara’s guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, experts said.

The deal was reached Monday by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, as the two sides agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, the last rebel stronghold.

This agreement brings Turkey to a position of giving a guarantee on behalf of the rebel groups, the experts said.

“Moscow is convinced that it would not be able to handle the burden of a humanitarian tragedy in case of a military offensive in Idlib,” said Metin Gurcan, a Turkish security analyst with the Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University.

Russia has also secured its airbases in northern Syria, including its airbase in Hmeymim as a guarantee by Turkey under the Sochi agreement, he said.

Gurcan recalled a trilateral summit of Turkey, Iran and Russia held in Iranian capital Tehran early September, which ended without agreement as Erdogan’s call for a ceasefire in Idlib was rejected by Moscow and Tehran.

Erdogan’s proposal for a ceasefire by all parties in Idlib was rejected by Putin on the grounds that those groups were not represented at the table there, he said.

“Now Turkey has given a guarantee on behalf of radical groups which Putin earlier said that ceasefire cannot be discussed because they were not represented at Tehran meeting,” Gurcan said.

Now everyone is curious how Turkey has given guarantee to Moscow and how will those radical groups accept a proposal for demilitarization by surrendering heavy weapons and withdrawing from the demilitarized zone, Gurcan noted.

“Ankara has given this promise relying on its military power on the ground and on its capacity to convince armed opposition groups,” he said.

Turkish army has reinforced its presence in Idlib in the past few months, and Turkey has 12 military outposts with 1,200-1,300 troops on the border line of the province separating the rebel stronghold from the pro-Iran militia-controlled South of Aleppo and the government-controlled southeast, Gurcan said.

Rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army, in the region are gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the “National Front for Liberation.”

Putin and Erdogan agreed on Monday in Sochi to create a 15-20 km buffer zone along the line of contact between rebels and regime troops by Oct. 15.

The agreement entails the “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib as well as “heavy weaponry from this zone,” Putin said at the joint press conference after signing the deal with Erdogan.

By the end of the year, transportation routes between the key port of Latakia and Aleppo as well as the city of Hama must be restored, Putin added.

The Russian leader also said all heavy weapons had to be withdrawn from the zone by Oct. 10, according to Erdogan’s proposal.

Ankara has been warning against any military offensive by Russia-backed Syrian regime forces in Idlib, warning that it would lead to a humanitarian crisis and refugee influx to the Turkish border.

Turkey and Russia, along with Iran, are guarantors of the Astana deal which declared ceasefire in four de-escalation zones in Syria, including Idlib.

Turkey will deploy more troops in Idlib province after the Sochi deal, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday.

“We will need extra troop reinforcements. Turkey and Russia will patrol on the border areas. Civilians and moderate (opposition) will stay here,” Cavusoglu said.

Another outcome of the Sochi deal is that Turkey and Russia prevented a possible attack by the United States in Idlib, Naim Baburoglu from Aydin University said.

He recalled that the U.S. was giving signals that it wanted to intervene in the situation in Idlib, if Syrian government troops launch an assault on the rebel stronghold.

Washington recently threatened to take swift and decisive actions against any use of chemical weapons in Idlib.

“This agreement showed that the U.S. has room for maneuver only in the east of Euphrates and Manbij region,” Baburoglu said.

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Pat Buchanan: “The Late Hit” On Judge Kavanaugh

Wha exactly is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Upon the memory and truthfulness of Christine Blasey Ford hangs the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his reputation and possibly his career on the nation’s second-highest court.

And much more. If Kavanaugh is voted down or forced to withdraw, the Republican Party and conservative movement could lose their last best hope for recapturing the high court for constitutionalism.

No new nominee could be vetted and approved in six weeks. And the November election could bring in a Democratic Senate, an insuperable obstacle to the elevation of a new strict constructionist like Kavanaugh.

The stakes are thus historic and huge.

And what is professor Ford’s case against Judge Kavanaugh?

When she was 15 in the summer of ’82, she went to a beer party with four boys in Montgomery County, Maryland, in a home where the parents were away.

She says she was dragged into a bedroom by Brett Kavanaugh, a 17-year-old at Georgetown Prep, who jumped her, groped her, tried to tear off her clothes and cupped her mouth with his hand to stop her screams.

Only when Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, laughing “maniacally,” piled on and they all tumbled off the bed, did she escape and lock herself in a bathroom as the “stumbling drunks” went downstairs. She fled the house and told no one of the alleged rape attempt.

Not until 30 years later in 2012 did Ford, now a clinical psychologist in California, relate, in a couples therapy session with her husband, what happened. She says she named Kavanaugh as her assailant, but the therapist’s notes of the session make no mention of Kavanaugh.

During the assault, says Ford, she was traumatized. “I thought he might inadvertently kill me.”

Here the story grows vague. She does not remember who drove her to the party. She does not say how much she drank. She does not remember whose house it was. She does not recall who, if anyone, drove her home. She does not recall what day it was.

She did not tell her parents, Ford says, as she did not want them to know she had been drinking. She did not tell any friend or family member of this traumatic event that has so adversely affected her life.

Said Kavanaugh in response, “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

Mark Judge says it never happened.

Given the seriousness of the charges, Ford must be heard out. But she also needs to be cross-examined and have her story and character probed as Kavanaugh’s has been by FBI investigators as an attorney for the Ken Starr impeachment investigation of Bill Clinton, a White House aide to George Bush, a U.S. appellate judge and a Supreme Court nominee.

During the many investigations of Kavanaugh’s background, nothing was unearthed to suggest something like this was in character.

Some 65 women who grew up in the Chevy Chase and Bethesda area and knew Kavanaugh in his high school days have come out and spoken highly of his treatment of girls and women.

Moreover, the way in which all of this arose, at five minutes to midnight in the long confirmation process, suggests that this is political hardball, if not dirt ball.

When Ford, a Democrat, sent a letter detailing her accusations against Kavanaugh to her California congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, Ford insisted that her name not be revealed as the accuser.

She seemingly sought to damage or destroy the judge’s career behind a cloak of anonymity. Eshoo sent the letter on to Sen. Diane Feinstein, who held it for two months.

Excising Ford’s name, Feinstein then sent it to the FBI, who sent it to the White House, who sent it on to the Senate to be included in the background material on the judge.

Thus, Ford’s explosive charge, along with her name, did not surface until this weekend.

What is being done here stinks. It is a transparently late hit, a kill shot to assassinate a nominee who, before the weekend, was all but certain to be confirmed and whose elevation to the Supreme Court is a result of victories in free elections by President Trump and the Republican Party.

Palpable here is the desperation of the left to derail Kavanaugh, lest his elevation to the high court imperil their agenda and the social revolution that the Warren Court and its progeny have been able to impose upon the nation.

If Kavanaugh is elevated, the judicial dictatorship of decades past, going back to the salad days of Earl Warren, William Brennan, Hugo Black and “Wild Bill” Douglas, will have reached its end. A new era will have begun.

That is what is at stake.

The Republican Senate should continue with its calendar to confirm Kavanaugh before Oct. 1, while giving Ford some way to be heard, and then Kavanaugh the right to refute. Then let the senators decide.

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