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Russia slams US “occupation” of Syria after reports suggest the US will not leave Syria

Russia continues to use strong language to criticise Washington’s illegal actions in Syria.

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Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Maria Zakharova has slammed a report from the Washington Post which claims the US is planning to stay in Syria for “years” in an attempt to occupy and destabilise the country using the ethno-nationalist ambitions of their Kurdish proxies as a flimsy ‘justification’. This is something which was categorically rejected by the members of the Astana Group which includes Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Today Zakharova stated in response to the report,

“They are there not only without permission from Damascus, but also in direct violation of the wishes of the Syrian government. In fact, what they are doing could be described as occupation”.

She further stated,

“US Defense Secretary openly said on November 13 that the American troops will not leave Syria until progress is made with a political resolution. The conditions of which, we presume, the US wants to dictate arbitrarily.

We have noted on numerous occasions that such statements cast a serious doubt about what the true goals of the US-led coalition are in Syria”.

This represents yet a further strongly worded admonition of US policy in Syria from Russia, after Sergey Lavrov effectively told the US it is time to prepare an orderly withdrawal during statements made last week.

Hours ago, I wrote about the possible manners in which Russia and fellow Astana group members Iran and Turkey could respond to the latest threats from the United States. Below is the entire piece reoccurred in its entirety:

US media claims American troops will stay in Syria to aid Kurdish insurgents

It has long been assumed, though never overtly confirmed by the United States, that US troops plan to remain illegally on Syrian territory for an indefinite period of time, in order to use Kurdish proxies as a means to destroy the territorial and political unity of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Yesterday’s meeting of the Presidents of the Astana group, likewise confirmed that Russia, Iran and Turkey are now all in favour of preserving Syria as a unitary state with no internal divisions or otherwise Balkanised statelets.

This unity is now threatened by Washington’s failure to withdraw troops from Syria, something that was widely expected and feared. This reality has seemingly been confirmed by an ominous piece in the Washington Post.

Key elements of the piece read as follows,

“The Trump administration is expanding its goals in Syria beyond routing the Islamic State to include a political settlement of the country’s civil war, a daunting and potentially open-ended commitment that could draw the United States into conflict with both Syria and Iran.

With forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies now bearing down on the last militant-controlled towns, the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria could be imminent — along with an end to the U.S. justification for being there.

U.S. officials say they are hoping to use the ongoing presence of American troops in northern Syria, in support of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to pressure Assad to make concessions at United Nations-brokered peace talks in Geneva. The negotiations there are set to resume at the end of this month after sputtering along for more than three years without result”.

The piece from the Washington Post further states,

“An abrupt US withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival – an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally. To avoid that outcome, US officials say they plan to maintain a US troop presence in northern Syria… and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas”.

If the findings in the piece are accurate, it means that the US intends to essentially maintain a totally illegal colonial presence in Syria for “years” using Kurdish ethno-nationalists as the fig-leaf for plans which essentially seek to deprive Syria of its sovereignty and territorial unity and which will hinder economic re-development plans, including those from China which seeks to peacefully integrate Syria into One Belt–One Road.

Implicit in this plan is a US government that is willing to throw away what very little remains of its traditional partnership with Turkey. Turkey is not only dead set against a Kurdish statelet on its borders, but is opposed to Kurdish participation in the Syrian National Dialogue Congress which will take place in Sochi and attempt to hammer out a lasting settlement between Syria and members of the so-called “opposition”.

As of yesterday, while Russia is moving towards a position of sympathy to Turkey’s views on the Kurds, there are still issues to be ironed out as I described in the following way:

“As for Turkey, Ankara still maintains sympathy for some of the sectarian Sunni so-called “opposition” in Syria, however, while Russia is willing to allow Kurdish militant groups to participate in dialogue with the Syrian government, Turkey is dead set against this.

For Turkey, the primary terrorist threat to the region are the pro-PKK Kurdish fighters currently operating in northern Syria. When Erdogan spoke of terrorism threatening OUR countries, he was clearly referring to Kurdish insurgents.

In this sense, there may be room for proverbial horse trading between Damascus, Ankara and Moscow. In return for Turkey dampening its support for crypto-Takfiri groups, Russia could, on behalf of Syria, move to a position that is more sympathetic to treating Syria’s Kurdish issue as a post, post-conflict problem, thus not allowing Kurdish agitations to become a point of contention at future dialogue sessions. In this sense, Russia could help Syria and Turkey to slowly normalise relations by de-emphasising any latent sympathies to the Kurds that still lingers in some Russian circles. This would be beneficial for Russia’s long term relationship with both Turkey and Syria, something that is frankly worth ‘losing’ clout among Kurds who have shown an almost blind wilful submission to their western and Zionist clients.

This of course will require supreme tact by all sides, but as Moscow is in a position to speak with both Ankara and Damascus, Moscow withdrawing any remaining sympathies with the Kurds, could be vital in helping Turkey to ease into a position wherein it acts as a restraining rather than an encouraging force in respect of the so-called “opposition” among which, Turkey continues to command respect.

In respect of Iran, one sees a power that has zero sympathies with any crypto-Takfiri “opposition” figures, but also one which is increasingly willing to cooperate with Turkey over Kurdish insurgents who threaten the peace and security of Iran and Turkey. Iran recently cooperated with Turkey in building a border wall designed to prevent Kurdish terrorists in Iran from supplying their compatriots in Turkey and vice versa.  Iran and Turkey also jointly cooperated with Iraq in subduing ethno-naturalist Kurds in northern Iraq, in a mission that was both swift and successful.

In this sense, Iran can help to assure Syria that Turkey’s position in favour of crypto-Takfiris can and will be restrained, while Iran can also assure Turkey that Tehran will effectively communicate a message of genuine worry over Kurdish terrorism to Moscow”.

Now that it is all but confirmed that the US seeks to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and the joint peace process of Russia, Iran and Turkey, which Syria supports, the Astana Group, along with Syria must become more united than ever against a common threat–that of the United States and its Kurdish proxies. Here are some ways this can be accomplished.

1. Russia green lights Turkey’s anti-Kurdish manoeuvres in Syria 

It has long been the case that Turkey’s primary motive for maintaining a strong troop presence in Idlib and parts of Aleppo Governorate, is for the purpose of restraining, containing and taking territory from Kurdish insurgents who have unilaterally occupied parts of Syria and set up shadow regimes.

While Russia had previously sought to include Kurds in a final settlement, because at this point, Kurdish militants and US imperialists are now largely interchangeable terms, Russia has all the more incentive to allow Turkey to do the ‘dirty work’ it has taken upon itself to do and neutralise the Kurdish threat to Syria.

If Turkey is able to neutralise Kurdish insurgents, the US would lose its fig-leaf for the continued illegal occupation of Syria. Because Iraq, with international support from both Iran and Turkey, crushed a would-be insurgency from Kurdish ethno-nationalists with comparative ease and in short order, there is an existing precedent for Kurdish insurgencies to fizzle-out when met with a strong united front on the battlefield.

Kurds in Syria, if left to their own devices would likely be rapidly destroyed by Turkish forces, especially if given a green light from Turkey’s other two Astana partners, Russia and Iran. This could also help pave the way for the eventual normalisation of relations between Ankara and Damascus.

The biggest problem here remains: will the US fight Turkey for the sake of its Kurdish proxies?

If the US were to truly go all-in for the creation of a would-be Kurdish statelet, it could mean war between two states which are still NATO members. This would almost certainly lead to Turkey withdrawing from the alliance, as it would permanently change the balance of power in the region and beyond.

Turkey has previously stated that if during its battles against Kurdish militants in Syria, Turkish troops were to accidentally fire on American targets, that this would be collateral damage that Ankara is willing to live with. While received wisdom at the time was that these remarks were intended to deter US support for Syrian Kurds, clearly this has not worked. Furthermore, no one should underestimate how seriously Turkey takes the issue of pro-PKK Kurdish insurgents on its border.

If Turkey is willing to engage the US and their proxies in Syria in the medium term, Russia and Iran could barely do anything to stop it from a military point of view, even if they wanted to. The difference is that Russia and Iran do not underestimate Turkey, although the US apparently does. The war in Syria would therefore become a conflict between Turkey and the United States, unless the US refused to back Kurdish militants being attacked by Turkey.

2. Russia convinces Turkey it can disarm Syrian Kurds and bring about a peace process in spite of US ambitions 

With the US effectively stating its position vis-a-vis Kurdish militants, Russia could offer Turkey an alternative to fighting US proxies and possibly the US itself in Syria.

If Russia were to convince Turkey that by bringing Kurdish factions into the Syrian National Dialogue Congress and including them in the Astana peace process, that it could militarily neutralise Kurds and even draw them away from the US, this, if presented in a very careful manner, might convince Turkey that it is better to let Russia handle the Kurdish problem diplomatically than for Turkey and the US to sling it out on the field of battle.

If successful, drawing the Kurds into a peace process would also totally eliminate America’s already flimsy argument that the only reason Washington continues to illegally occupy Syria is to insure a peace process which covers the Kurdish question. As Syria had previously stated that it is willing to discuss internal grievances among Kurds in a de-militarised pots-war environment, if presented correctly to Syria, this could likewise placate Damascus while maintaining Russian prestige for the foreseeable future among both Syria and Turkey.

This could be a diplomatic way to take the remaining wind out of US sails while showing Turkey that it is Russia and not the US that has listened respectfully to Turkey’s legitimate concerns.

3. The Astana Group gives the US an ultimatum to quit Syria 

While the word “ultimatum” sounds threatening, depending on the context in which it is presented, it needn’t be so.

Furthermore, this option is not mutually exclusive to the previous two scenarios. If the Astana Group effectively said that the US has no mandate in Syria and that one way or another, the issues regarding all self-identified factions in Syria, including the Kurds, will be dealt with by the Astana Group in line with UN Resolution 2254, it would deal another large blow to what very little remains of US prestige on a Syrian peace settlement.

While asking the US to leave Syria, something which Russia has effectively already done using firm yet diplomatic language, it would not guarantee a US exit. But if all of the elements of UN Resolution 2254 were satisfied in accordance with the wishes of all parties, the US would be clearly in Syria for no reason at all–even more so than it is at present and that is saying quite a lot.

This would have the effect of bringing wider public opinion against continued US occupation of Syria, including opinion among many Americans. This is after all what happened in the US war on Vietnam when both international and US public opinion turned fully against America’s presence in South East Asia.

Interestingly, both Russia and Turkey are using increasingly strong language to publicly call for a US withdrawal from Syria. Turkish Member of Parliament Metin Kulunk even recently stated that if the US remains in Syria, it will face a “new Vietnam”.

Conclusion:

When it comes to the question of Turkey decided to run the risk of engaging the US militarily in Syria or else accepting a Russian political solution to neutralise the Kurdish threat, this will all be contingent on how much Russia can convince Turkey that Moscow is able to control the Kurdish problem. For the moment, Turkey is already going after Kurdish factions while the peace process continues simultaneously. The aggregate effect is to grind down Kurdish ambitions by effectively pinning them between a Turkish tank and the Astana Group’s collective diplomacy, all while Syrian Kurds will remember the defeat of their ethno-nationalist brethren in Iraq.

In either case, the US has isolated itself on the Syria issue, with all major powers calling for a US withdrawal. If the US  believes that its Kurdish proxies can withstand the long-term force of total opposition to US manoeuvres in Syria, then Turkish MP Metin Kulunk is absolutely correct: the US will eventually face a new Vietnam in Syria, because they continue to forget the lessons of 1975.

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Judicial Watch Calls for Re-Opening of Hillary Email Investigation After More Classified Info Found

Judicial Watching is calling for a re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails after finding more classified information on the former Secretary of State’s non-“state.gov” email system.

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Authored by Joseph Jankowski via PlanetFreeWill.com,


On Thursday, the watchdog revealed that it had received two batches, 184 pages and 45 pagesof newly uncovered emails belonging to Hillary Clinton from the U.S. Department of State sent and received over her unsecured server.

The emails were uncovered by a FOIA lawsuit filed on May 6, 2015, after the State Department failed to respond to a March 4, 2015 FOIA request seeking all emails sent or received by Clinton in her official capacity as Secretary of State, as well as all emails by other State Department employees to Clinton regarding her non-“state.gov” email address.

Judicial Watch broke down what they found:

  • On June 7, 2011, Clinton received classified information on her non-secure email account from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, which Blair also forwarded to Jake Sullivan, about Blair’s Middle East negotiations with Israel, the Palestinians and the French
  • On January 26, 2010, Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan sent classified information via his unsecure Blackberry to Huma Abedin’s State Department email account that he’d earlier sent to Clinton’s and Abedin’s non-secure @clintonemail.com email accounts about U.K. negotiations with Northern Ireland.
  • On October 28, 2010, Clinton exchanges information with her friend Marty Torrey – a congressional aide – who asks Clinton in an email if she would advise that Torrey meet with former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Clinton responds through her non-secure email account approving the meeting and notes that she is emailing him from Hanoi, Vietnam.
  • An email chain dated April 8, 2010, which contains a memo from Sid Blumenthal to Hillary Clinton related to the change of government in Kyrgyzstan, contains information classified “confidential” and is redacted as “foreign government information” and “foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources.” Blumenthal urges Clinton to “develop relations” with the new government in Kyrgyzstan.

These emails caused Judicial Watch founder Tom Fitton to call for the Department of Justice to re-open the investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time in office.

“These emails were undercovered from the emails that Hillary Clinton tried to delete or otherwise hide from the American people,” Fitton said in a video posted Thursday. “These new emails once again show why the Clinton email investigation needs to be re-opened by the Justice Department.”

The batch of emails also disclosed a January 26, 2010, email to Hillary Clinton’s private server from her deputy chief of staff, Jake Sullivan, that is classified “confidential” and contains a “call sheet” that Clinton received prior to a call with Northern Ireland political leaders.

Interesting, but not surprising, is also an email that shows a meeting scheduled between Hillary Clinton and leftwing billionaire George Soros.

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Doug Casey on Social Media: “Facebook enshrines stupidity”

“Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook.”

The Duran

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Authored by Joel Bowman via InternationalMan.com:


Joel Bowman: G’day, Doug. Thanks for speaking with us today.

Doug Casey: No problem, Joel. It’s a pleasure to hear your Australian accent come across the ether from Mexico.

Joel: Let’s dive right in. A week or two ago, Facebook registered the largest single day loss for any one company in stock market history – roughly $122 billion. CEO Mark Zuckerberg lost around $15 billion himself, as much as the annual GDP of several resource-rich, West African nations.

Looking back to 2000, during the go-go days of the dot.com boom, Intel and Microsoft both registered staggering single-day losses, too… $90 billion and $80 billion, respectively. And we know what happened next in that case…

So, investors want to know… is past prologue? What’s next for Silicon Valley’s tech darlings?

Doug: Talking about losing multiple billions in a single day, it’s really a sign of the times. I remember when the only billionaires in the world were Howard Hughes, John Paul Getty and John Beresford Tipton– the mythical billionaire on a 1950’s-era show called “The Millionaire.”

These days, however, it seems everyone’s a billionaire. In fact, there are several thousand billionaires roaming the planet today, with new ones being minted almost every day.

Of course, much of this so-called wealth is just paper. It’s not real. In fact, it’s pretty clear to me that we’re in a stock market bubble. Which is being driven by the bond market hyper-bubble. And that, in turn, is fueling a real estate bubble, which I believe is just now beginning to deflate in major cities around the world.

None of this augurs well for the stock market. You’ve got bubbles all over the place. Except in the resource market. That’s the one place that hasn’t inflated. In fact, it’s been going down since it’s last peak in 2011.

Getting back to Facebook, I hope it goes bankrupt. I hate it as an institution. I hate what it does. I don’t like its policies. I don’t like its management. I don’t like the fact that it’s causing people to destroy whatever privacy they have left. While turning their brains to mush sending out selfies all day.

Joel: You’ve put a lot on the table there, Doug. Let’s unpack a bit of that, starting with the general tendency toward cerebral rot…

Many younger readers may not remember this, but there actually existed a time before everybody knew everything, when people had to read books and discuss them, engage in healthy debate and rigorous dialectic in order to learn and develop intellectually.

Now that everyone apparently has plenty of time to Instagram their kale salads and “like” one and other’s cat pictures, are we to assume mankind has finally reached the End of Learning…some new Age of Enlightenment?

Or might Facebook and its (anti)social media cousins represent – in addition to the potential fallout for investors – another, hidden cost to society?

Doug: Perhaps humanity is bifurcating into the Morlocks and the Eloi at this point. It’s true that people used to go to libraries. But even the Library of Congress has only a tiny fraction the world’s data available; libraries are quaint and delightful, but they’re dinosaurs.

All the knowledge in the world is now at our fingertips on the Internet. The Internet is one of the greatest inventions in history, on a par with moveable type and the Gutenburg printing press. A few people are using it to educate and better themselves—but relatively few.

Most people just use it for trivial amusement, as you mentioned. Facebook adds very little value to the equation. In fact, I can’t see that it does much that’s productive. It’s basically a vehicle for gossip and watching cat videos.

Joel: And it’s less than that. Aside from the general degradation of public discourse, social media also represents a kind of unalterable historical record of bad jokes and regrettable moments, accessible to anyone who may wish to besmirch one’s character or skittle one’s reputation.

We’ve all said things we wish we hadn’t. To err is to be human, after all. What do you make of a world in which everyone’s worst moments are readily available to everyone else – including potential enemies – at the click of a mouse?

Doug: Facebook enshrines stupidity. A heavy Facebook user is, in effect, saying: “Look at me! I’m a thoughtless person who doesn’t have anything better to do with his time”. That’s on top of the fact that users are exposing their thoughts, actions, and whereabouts to the NSA, the FBI, the CIA and any of a hundred other nefarious agencies. In fact, there are credible allegations that Facebook, along with Google and Amazon, are willing tools of these intelligence agencies. No good can come of being a Facebookista.

But that’s about whether you should use Facebook. Whether you should own Facebook stock is a different question. Even after the recent selloff, Facebook still has a market cap of about $500 billion, which impresses me as a lot for a chat site cum advertising vehicle. Especially one where most of its growth is behind it. A lot of users are getting hip to the fact they’re not customers, they’re the product.

Facebook was a clever innovation ten years ago. But you know, there’s an old saying in the stock market: High Tech, Big Wreck!

Just as Myspace was displaced by Facebook, I predict Facebook 2.0 will come along and replace Facebook. My understanding is that kids now see Facebook as something used by old people– people over 21 years of age. So if it’s going nowhere with the younger generation, where’s it’s future? Maybe it picks up a billion new users in the Third World. Ultimately, what’s that worth?

Facebook may not be a terminal short sale, but I certainly won’t be putting any of my own money into the stock.

Joel: Assuming you’re correct and Facebook 2.0 does displace the current market leader, are you hopeful that such a platform may serve to promote a heightened level of discourse? Perhaps people might find their way into “phyles,” that is, subgroups based on commonly shared values that actually have real world meaning?

Doug: I hope that, in a year or two, International Man itself grows into a community of likeminded people with above average I.Q.s, libertarian values, and real world experience. IM might, itself, even branch off to become its own kind of Facebook. A private version.

I know there’s a lot of talk about regulating FB, or breaking it up. That’s a bad idea; the government should have zero to do with business in general—and areas related to free speech in particular. I’m disgusted by the fact FB has kicked Alex Jones and others off their platform. But they have a right to do so, as a private company. Although, on the other hand, they’re almost a creature of the State.

But that’s not an excuse for the government to “step in”. What will happen is that a newer, better Facebook lookalike—or a dozen of them—will replace them. FB will self-destruct. It’s a non-problem.

To be frank, you and I don’t really have that much in common with most of the 7.3 billion people on this planet. In fact, while I like many individual humans, I despise humanity in general. The more people you put together in a group, the more they act like chimpanzees. Big groups force down the lowest common denominator.

There’s some cause for optimism, but only on a person-to-person basis. I prefer the company of people who value free minds and free markets—and I suspect most people who are reading this now feel the same way.

Joel: That’s probably a very good note to end this conversation on, Doug. Thanks, as always, for taking the time.

Doug: Meanwhile, we’ll look for something with the potential of Facebook in 2008… and stay away from Facebook today.

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Why did Erdogan free two Greek soldiers after six months in a Turkish prison?

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 83.

Alex Christoforou

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Two Greek soldiers freed after months in a Turkish prison returned to Greece by government jet after their unexpected release by a Turkish provincial court.

Greece’s Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said he phoned his Turkish counterpart to express his satisfaction with the soldiers’ release and invite him to visit Greece.

Kammenos told reporters, referring to the Feast of the Dormation, which falls on August 15 and to the Italian torpedoing on a Greek warship on this day in 1940…

“This is a great day for our motherland, the day of Our Lady, the day of Tinos in 1940.”

“I hope that their release…will herald a new day in Greek-Turkish relations. We can live together peacefully, for the benefit of both our peoples.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine the reasons behind Erdogan’s unexpected overture to Greece, with the sudden release of two Greek soldiers held in a Turkish prison for nearly 6 months.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Ekathimerini

The soldiers – 2nd Lieutenant Angelos Mitretodis and Sergeant Dimitris Kouklatzis – were met by Kammenos, the army chief of staff and an honor guard after their arrival at 3 a.m. at the airport in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

“All I want to say is thank you,” Mitretodis told reporters.

The men were arrested on March 1 for illegally entering Turkey after crossing the heavily militarized land border. Greece strongly protested their long detention in the western town of Edirne, arguing that they had strayed across during a patrol of a trail of suspected illegal immigration amid poor visibility due to bad weather.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed their release as “an act of justice,” and provided the jet he uses on official foreign journeys to bring them back.

Their release “will contribute to strengthening friendship, good neighborly relations and stability in the region,” Tsipras said in a statement. “I want to congratulate and thank (the two men) and their families for their fortitude, patience and trust in our efforts, which were finally justified.”

In Athens, the Foreign Ministry said: “We welcome the release of the two members of the Greek armed forces … following more than five months of unjustified custody in Edirne prison. This decision by the Turkish authorities is positive and will contribute to the improvement of Greek-Turkish relations and the friendship between our people.

“The constant efforts exerted by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Ministry and the diplomatic and consular missions of Greece in Turkey have borne fruit. Once again diplomacy is the biggest winner.”

The men’s arrest had considerably strained Greek-Turkish relations. Kammenos had claimed that they were being held “hostage” by Turkey, which is trying to secure the extradition of eight Turkish servicemen who fled to Greece after the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey.

Ankara accuses its servicemen of involvement in the coup, but Greek courts have refused to extradite them, arguing they would not get a fair trial in Turkey and their lives would be in danger there.

The two Greeks were released Tuesday pending the outcome of their trial by a Turkish court. Turkey’s state Anadolu Agency said that in a court hearing to review a request for their release the two said in their defense that they had crossed the border by mistake.

Mitretodis’ father told the AP that his son had shown great strength in prison.

“My wife phoned and told me the news, and at once I called the Greek consul (in Edirne) and confirmed that the lads have been set free,” Nikos Mitretodis said. “They didn’t do anything wrong, and they spent a long time in prison. But they were strong during all that time, and remain strong, they have to be.”

“I want to thank everyone for their solidarity – the media, our political leadership, the Church and anonymous people who stood by us,” he added.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said the release of the two soldiers “on the one hand constitutes a basic act of justice on the part of the Turkish authorities. On the other hand, it shows how Turkey can and should continue to fully reestablish the climate of friendship and good neighborliness with Greece”.

Main opposition New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “The release of the two Greek officers is happy news amid the gloomy summer that our country is experiencing. All Greeks await their return with joy and emotion.”

In Brussels, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he was delighted by news of the Greek soldiers’ imminent release. “As I said (before) … Turkey has nothing to fear from its European neighbors. We want to see a democratic, stable and prosperous Turkey,” he posted on Twitter.

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog:

On August 15, Greeks celebrate the “Dormition (or the Assumption) of the Virgin Mary (in Greek: Koimisis tis Theotokou). The holiday commemorates the “falling asleep” or death of the Theotokos (Mary, translated as “God-bearer”). August 15, one of the most important holidays in the Orthodox calendar, is celebrated across the country, and is a date when many Greeks leave the towns and cities where they live and work to return to their home villages.”

Stole that bit from the local Kathimerini paper. And I would add: while most Athenians leave for the islands, along with about 2 billion tourists. Thought I’d bring up the national holiday because in Turkey, they celebrate the same. The orthodox church is still going strong in both countries. Even if Turkey is leaning increasingly towards Islam. And even then: the House of the Virgin Mary shrine in Turkey, which the Apostle John is supposed to have built for her, on a mountain overlooking the Aegean, the place where Mary is said to have spent her last years, sees both Christian and Muslim pilgrims.

All this can’t be seen apart from some recent developments between the two countries. Turkey had been holding two Greek servicemen in jail after they crossed a border in bad weather early March.

Athens got a phone call from Ankara, probably to Kammenos, not Tsipras, that said: you come get them. Whether that call was before or after the court decision we’ll probably never know. A bit of a shame, because it could tell us a lot of where the decisions are made in Turkey. Then again, we do have an idea. A mere provincial court that could make decisions that go completely against what Erdogan desires? What are the odds? But stick around.

Here’s what’s interesting about this: the two soldiers, who had been in detention for almost half a year, were released by a provincial court, and got back home on a joint Turkish/Greek national holiday. What’s not to like?

But then this: a few hours after they arrive home on PM Tsipras’ own government jet at 3pm, another Turkish court decides that an appeal for American pastor Brunson to be released, is denied. Brunson is the guy Trump wants freed. John Bolton has said there’ll be no more talks until that is done. But if one court takes a decision that at least on the face of it goes against supreme ruler Erdogan’s demands, and another decides differently, Erdogan can claim the pastor’s fate is out of his hands: it’s the court system that decides.

That victory over Trump, concerning not freeing the pastor, is apparently worth more to him than the defeat of not exchanging the soldiers for the 8 Turkish servicemen who have gotten asylum in Greece. Something Erdogan is allegedly very angry about, because he accuses them of being party to the 2016 ‘coup’. He’s trying to play chess with Trump.

*****

And then Reuters has this just now:

Erdogan Spokesman Says Problems With US Will Be Resolved

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Wednesday he expected problems with the United States, which helped drive the lira to record lows, to be resolved but Washington must stop trying to influence Turkey’s judiciary. Ibrahim Kalin also told a news conference that Turkey would exercise its rights if the U.S. does not deliver F-35 jets to Ankara. The lira, which has rallied after hitting a record low of 7.24 to the dollar, would continue to recover, he said.

Via The Automatic Earth blog:

A masterstroke? Did Erdogan just succeed in making everyone, including Trump, believe the Turkish judiciary system is impartial, and he’s not the one keeping Brunson from leaving the country? Sure looks like he tried. “Sorry, Mr. Trump, it’s out of my hands.. A judge let the Greek soldiers go, and I didn’t want that either..”

Problem is, everyone knows Erdogan fired half the judiciary system and 90% or so of the press, accusing them of being part of the same coup plot as Gülen and the pastor Brunson. It’s almost amusing. Almost, because innocent people’s lives are being played out on some primitive chess board and sacrificed against dreams of ever more power. Only a pawn in their game.

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