Contains selective news articles I select

Posts tagged ‘Imperial Land of Impeda’

Turkey leader calls on US to reverse decision to arm Kurds

May 10, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey slammed the Trump administration’s decision to supply Syrian Kurdish fighters with weapons against the Islamic State group and demanded Wednesday that it be reversed, heightening tensions between the NATO allies days before the Turkish leader heads to Washington for a meeting with President Donald Trump.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the fight against terrorism “should not be led with another terror organization” — a reference to the Syrian Kurdish militia, known as the YPG, which Turkey considers an extension of the decades-long Kurdish insurgency raging in its southeast. “We want to know that our allies will side with us and not with terror organizations,” he said.

The dispute could ignite more fighting between the two key U.S. allies in the battle against IS as Syrian Kurdish forces gear up for a major operation to drive the militants from their de facto capital, Raqqa.

Turkey, which has sent troops to northern Syrian in an effort to curtail Kurdish expansion along its borders, has for months tried to lobby Washington to cut off ties with the Kurds and work instead with Turkish-backed opposition fighters in the fight for Raqqa.

But the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, of SDF, which has driven IS from much of northern Syria over the past two years with the help of U.S.-led airstrikes, are among the most effective ground forces battling the extremists. In announcing the decision on Tuesday to arm the Kurds, the Pentagon’s chief spokeswoman, Dana W. White, called the militia “the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future.”

On Wednesday, the SDF said it captured the country’s largest dam from the Islamic State group. The fighters, which are Kurdish-led but also include some Arab fighters, said they expelled the extremists from the Tabqa Dam and a nearby town, also called Tabqa.

It was the latest IS stronghold to fall to the Kurdish-led fighters as they advance toward Raqqa — the seat of the militants’ so-called caliphate along the Euphrates River. The fall of Tabqa leaves no other major urban settlements on the road to Raqqa, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the Syrian Democratic Forces’ political office, hailed the U.S. decision to provide heavier arms, saying it carries “political meaning” and would “legitimize” the Kurdish-led force.

Ankara says the Kurdish militia, which forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, is an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the U.S. and other Western countries.

Erdogan said he would take up the issue during a planned meeting with Trump on Tuesday. “I hope that they will turn away from this wrong,” he said. Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also denounced the U.S. move, saying “every weapon that reaches the (Kurds’) hands is a threat to Turkey.”

The spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against IS, Col. John Dorrian, told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday that the weapons would be delivered to the Kurds soon. The weapons will not be reclaimed by the U.S. after specific missions are completed, he added, speaking by teleconference from Baghdad, but the U.S. will “carefully monitor” where and how they are used.

“Every single one” of the weapons will be accounted for, and the U.S. will “assure they are pointed at ISIS,” Dorrian said, using an alternate acronym for IS. The Trump administration has not specified the kinds of arms to be provided, but U.S. officials have indicated that 120mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said artillery or surface-to-air missiles would not be provided.

Speaking in Lithuania, where he was touring a NATO training site on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters that the U.S. has had very open discussions with Turkey over its concerns.

“We will work together. We’ll work out any of the concerns. I’m not concerned at all about the NATO alliance and the relations between our nations,” he said. “It’s not always tidy, but we work out the issues,” he added.

The SDF’s rapid advance against IS last year prompted Turkey to send ground forces across the border for the first time in the more than 6-year-old Syrian civil war to help allied Syrian forces battle IS and halt the Kurds’ progress.

Since then, Turkey is believed to have positioned more than 5,000 troops in northern Syria, and has escalated its airstrikes and cross-border artillery attacks against Kurdish forces. A Turkish air raid in late April killed 20 Syrian Kurdish fighters and media officials, prompting the U.S. to deploy armored vehicles along the border in a show of support for the group.

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey. Associated Press writers Sarah El Deeb in Beirut, Lolita C. Baldor in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Bob Burns in Washington contributed to this report.

Tensions rise between Turkey, US along Syrian border

April 29, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Tensions rose Saturday along the Turkish-Syrian border as both Turkey and the U.S. moved armored vehicles to the region and Turkey’s leader once again demanded that the United States stop supporting the Syrian Kurdish militants there.

The relocation of Turkish troops to an area near the border with Syria comes a day after U.S. troops were seen patrolling the tense border in Syria. Those patrols followed a Turkish airstrike against bases of Syrian Kurdish militia, Washington’s main ally in combating Islamic State militants in Syria.

More U.S. troops were seen Saturday in armored vehicles in Syria in Kurdish areas. Kurdish officials describe U.S. troop movement as “buffer” between them and Turkey. But Turkey views Syria’s Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as YPG, as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdish militants who have been waging a three-decade-long insurgency against Turkey.

“The YPG, and you know who’s supporting them, is attacking us with mortars. But we will make those places their grave, there is no stopping,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Footage shot Friday night showed a long line of Turkish trucks carrying military vehicles driving to the border area. The private Ihlas news agency IHA reported the convoy was heading to southeastern Sanliurfa province from Kilis in the west. The base is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Syria’s Tal Abyad, a town controlled by the Kurdish militia.

The agency said the relocation comes after Turkish officials announced the completion of a phase of Turkey’s cross-border operation of Euphrates Shield in Syria, adding that the force may be used against Syrian Kurdish militants “if needed.”

Tensions in the border area rose this week when Turkey conducted airstrikes against bases for YPG group in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores. The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes.

Erdogan hinted his country is also ready to repeat its attacks in Sinjar, Iraq, to prevent it from turning into a base for the Kurdish militia. Kurdish officials said the U.S. patrols are monitoring the Turkish-Syrian border to prevent an increase in tensions with Turkey, a NATO member and U.S. ally.

On Saturday, more U.S. troops in armored vehicles arrived in Kurdish areas, passing through Qamishli town, close to the border with Turkey. The town is mostly controlled by Kurdish forces, but Syrian government troops hold pockets of territory there, including the airport.

The convoy was followed by another of YPG militia. Some footage posted online showed Kurdish residents cheering American-flagged vehicles as they drove by. U.S. officials say the troop movement is part of its operations with the Kurdish forces in northern Syria.

Ankara sent its troops into Syria last August in a military operation triggered in large part by the Kurdish group’s expansion along its borders. The issue has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington that threatens to hamper the fight against IS. Instead of working with the Syrian Kurds, Turkey is pressing the U.S. to let its army join the campaign for Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of IS.

Erdogan is due in Washington on May 16 for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Claiming that his country is leading the most effective campaign against IS, Erdogan said: “Let us, huge America, all these coalition powers and Turkey, let us join hands and turn Raqqa to Daesh’s grave,” using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S-backed Syria Democratic Forces. Redur Khalil, the spokesman for the YPG in Syria, said Turkey is reinforcing its border posts opposite Tal Abyad as well as other border posts.

“We hope that this military mobilization is not meant to provoke our forces or for another purpose linked to entering Syrian territories. We don’t want any military confrontation between us, since our priority is to fight Daesh in Raqqa and Tabqa,” Khalil told The Associated Press in text messages.

Khalil said his forces were not building up in the area.

El Deeb contributed from Beirut.

Turkey demands US stop supporting Syrian Kurdish militants

April 29, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s leader on Saturday urged the United States to stop supporting Syrian Kurdish militants as local media reported the Turkish military has moved armored vehicles and personnel carriers to a base near the Syrian border.

The relocation comes a day after U.S. troops were seen patrolling the tense border in Syria. The Syrian Kurdish militia is Washington’s main ally in combating Islamic State militants in Syria. But Turkey views Syria’s Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as YPG, as a terrorist organization and an extension of the Kurdish militants who have been waging a three-decade-long insurgency against Turkey.

“The YPG, and you know who’s supporting them, is attacking us with mortars. But we will make those places their grave, there is no stopping,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Footage shot Friday night showed a long line of trucks carrying military vehicles driving to the border area. The private Ihlas news agency IHA reported the convoy was heading to southeastern Sanliurfa province from Kilis in the west. The base in the area is 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Syria’s Tal Abyad, a town controlled by the Kurdish militia.

The agency said the relocation comes after Turkish officials announced the completion of a phase of Turkey’s cross-border operation of Euphrates Shield in Syria, adding that the force may be used against Syrian Kurdish militants “if needed.”

Turkish officials announced the conclusion of the operation in March but have said they would continue combating terror to make its borders safe and rid of IS and Kurdish militants. Tensions in the border area rose this week when Turkey conducted airstrikes against bases for YPG group in Syria and Iraq on Tuesday. The Turkish military said it killed at least 90 militants and wounded scores.

The Kurdish group in Syria said 20 of its fighters and media activists were killed in the strike, which was followed by cross-border clashes between the two sides. The military said the YPG has targeted the Turkish border from Tal Abyad and further west in Afrin. Turkey’s military responded with howitzers.

Erdogan hinted his country is also ready to repeat it attacks in Sinjar, Iraq, to prevent it from turning into a base for the Kurdish militia. Kurdish officials said the U.S. patrols are monitoring the Turkish-Syrian border to prevent an increase in tensions with Turkey, a NATO member and U.S. ally.

Ankara sent its troops into Syria last August in a military operation triggered in large part by the Kurdish group’s expansion along its borders. The issue has been a source of tension between Ankara and Washington that threatens to hamper the fight against IS. Instead of working with the Syrian Kurds, Turkey is pressing the U.S. to let its army join the campaign for Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of IS.

Erdogan is due in Washington on May 16 for his first meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Stating that his country is leading the most effective campaign against IS, Erdogan said: “Let us, huge America, all these coalition powers and Turkey, let us join hands and turn Raqqa to Daesh’s grave,” using the Arabic acronym for IS.

The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S-backed Syria Democratic Forces. Redur Khalil, the spokesman for the YPG in Syria, said his group has information that Turkey is reinforcing its border posts opposite Tal Abyad as well as other border posts. He said the purpose of the military reinforcement was not clear.

“We hope that this military mobilization is not meant to provoke our forces or for another purpose linked to entering Syrian territories. We don’t want any military confrontation between us, since our priority is to fight Daesh in Raqqa and Tabqa,” Khalil told The Associated Press in text messages.

Khalil said his forces are not building up in the area and added that the international coalition is now “monitoring” the border.

Associated Press writer Sarah El Deeb contributed from Beirut.

In Istanbul’s ‘Little Syria,’ refugees want more from US

April 08, 2017

ISTANBUL (AP) — The fast-moving developments in Syria are never far from people’s minds in an Istanbul neighborhood that is home to thousands of refugees from the country’s civil war. In the Aksaray neighborhood — now known as “Little Syria” — the signs are in Arabic, the cuisine is seasoned with nostalgia and the weary residents are hoping for change after the first U.S. strike on President Bashar Assad’s forces.

The U.S. fired nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base early Friday, days after a chemical attack widely blamed on government forces killed nearly 90 people in the opposition-held northern town of Khan Sheikhoun. Opponents of Assad welcomed the move, but many in Little Syria feel that more should be done to end the grinding, six-year civil war.

“We are fed up of bombings, what we already lived through is enough,” said Samer Maydani, who hails from Damascus and owns a coffee shop in Little Syria. “We need political solutions through the U.N. and the Security Council.”

“After seven years of destroying us, we don’t trust anyone,” he said. “If (U.S. President Donald) Trump and the international community want change, they should just ask Assad to leave.” Turkey is home to some three million Syrian refugees, 480,000 of whom live in Istanbul. The Turkish government welcomed the U.S. strike and has called for renewed efforts to remove Assad from power.

Across the street from Maydani’s coffee shop, Hussein Esfira, from the Syrian city of Aleppo, works 14-hour shifts as a butcher in a Syrian restaurant. He says he has little time left to follow politics, but feels the U.S. could do more.

“Why are they bombing?” he asked. “Everyone is seeking to take a piece of the cake.” “Instead of bombing, the U.S. can intervene for the sake of a peaceful solution,” he said. The owner of a nearby pastry shop agrees. Anas Jamous, who also comes from Aleppo, said that if the international community wanted to end the war, “they would have done so five years ago.”

He is still angry about Trump’s travel ban, which would have barred people from Syria and five other Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States until stricter vetting procedures are put in place. The ban also temporarily suspended the U.S. refugee program.

He said the ban, which has been blocked by the courts, “expresses a deep hatred against Muslims from the American government.”

Newcomer Macron makes France’s mark, with Trump and globally

May 28, 2017

TAORMINA, Italy (AP) — Within days of taking the French presidency, Emmanuel Macron faced a string of diplomatic tests — pushing the Paris climate deal on a skeptical Donald Trump, rallying European allies to do more to fight Syria’s extremists, and now hosting Vladimir Putin.

Europe has a lot riding on Macron’s diplomatic performance. So far, it appears, so good. Macron struck up an unusually chummy rapport in his first meetings with Trump, winning a handshake contest and the U.S. leader’s cellphone number, despite their stark political differences.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, too, is warming to the energetic Macron — they’ve already met three times in the two weeks since Macron took office — and is pinning hopes on him to boost Europe’s economy and unity.

Macron is eager to dispel doubts about his presidential stature that have dogged him since he launched a wild-card presidential bid just six months ago. During his very first days in office, he visited Berlin and a French military base in Mali, where the country’s troops are fighting Islamic extremism. Then over this past week, he cemented his status as a new global player at a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven summit in Italy.

While he has never held elected office before, Macron was helped by his comfortable English and backstage knowledge of international summits gained as top economic adviser to predecessor Francois Hollande from 2012 to 2014, then as his economy minister.

Beyond the important issues Macron’s tackling, his body language drew the most public attention on his summit outings. The most symbolic image was his handshake with Trump at their first meeting, in Brussels. After some friendly chatter, the two gripped each other’s hands so tightly before the cameras that their jaws seemed to clench. It looked like Trump was ready to pull away first, but Macron wasn’t quite ready to disengage.

The next day at the G-7 summit in Sicily, Macron attracted attention for his friendly interactions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At their bilateral meeting, Macron, 39, and Trudeau, 45, went on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, were they posed for photographers, surrounded by flowers.

Macron showed proximity with other leaders, joking and making a gentle tap on the arm a habit. He often paid special attention to Merkel —as if making efforts to embody the French-German friendship. Germany is hoping Macron jumpstarts France’s economy, a pillar of European unity and the shared euro currency.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was visibly touched when Macron addressed his condolences in English following the Manchester attack that killed 22 people. “We were very shocked, because … we know how this can hurt the people of your country, but more generally for Europe. Because they attack our young, and very young people,” Macron told her.

Both leaders pushed to get a separate, unanimous statement on the fight against terrorism by the G-7. The text is appealing to internet providers and social media companies to more actively fight extremism, an issue widely promoted by Macron during his presidential campaign.

Macron has promised to discuss the Syria crisis on Monday with Russia’s president when he visits the royal palace in Versailles. That may be Macron’s toughest test so far, amid tensions over Moscow’s role in fighting in Syria and Ukraine, and after Putin openly supported rival French candidate Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party.

“Russia invaded Ukraine,” Macron told a news conference Saturday. On Syria, where extremists plotted attacks against France and where Europe’s migrant crisis began, he said, “I said at the G-7 table that I don’t regard it as a collective victory that on Syria … not one of us was capable of being around the table. You have Russia, Iran and Turkey. That is a defeat.”

“So we must talk to Russia to change the framework for getting out of the military crisis in Syria and to build a much more collective and integrated inclusive political solution,” he added. The G-7 called on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and said they “stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia should its actions so require.”

Macron promised he will have a “demanding dialogue with Russia, but it means having a dialogue.” At the end of the G-7, Macron appeared to soften his stance on the climate talks, the most problematic issue between the U.S. and the six other nations. Macron showed unfailing optimism.

While Merkel called the G-7 climate talks “very difficult, if not to say, very unsatisfactory,” Macron said “I think Mr. Trump is someone who is pragmatic and so I have good hopes that having considered the arguments put forward by various people and his country’s own interest he will confirm his commitment (to the accord) — in his own time.”

“I saw someone who listens and who is willing to work,” he added. “For Mr. Trump and myself, it was a first experience. I think he saw the purpose of these multilateral discussions.” Optimism, and an almost constant smile on the face, are part of Macron’s strategy French voters are now getting used to.

The French leader was especially careful to avoid diplomatic or political faux-pas only two weeks before crucial legislative elections. Macron needs to get a majority at France’s lower house of parliament to fully implement his pro-European, pro-free market agenda.

Meanwhile, his wife Brigitte Macron experienced the role of first lady, symbolizing easygoing French chic, and at ease with other spouses, especially with Melania Trump with whom she was seen chatting.

Angela Charlton reported from Brussels.

UK Labor leader accuses Theresa May of ‘pandering’ to Trump

May 12, 2017

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s main opposition leader on Friday accused Prime Minister Theresa May of pandering to an “erratic” U.S. administration, as defense and security took center-stage in the U.K. election campaign.

May was the first world leader to visit Donald Trump after his inauguration, and has stressed the importance of the trans-Atlantic “special relationship” to global security. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that “waiting to see which way the wind blows in Washington isn’t strong leadership. And pandering to an erratic administration will not deliver stability.”

He accused Trump of “recklessly escalating the confrontation with North Korea, unilaterally launching missile strikes on Syria, opposing President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and backing a new nuclear arms race.”

Corbyn, a longtime anti-war activist who opposed the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, used a speech at the international affairs think tank Chatham House to outline his vision for defense and foreign policy.

He said he supported military action “as a genuine last resort” but accused recent British and U.S. governments of “bomb first, talk later” policies. Recent U.K. governments, both Conservative and Labour, have joined U.S.-led military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Corbyn said he would take a different direction, calling the U.S.-led “war on terror” a failure. “It has not increased our security at home. In fact, many would say, just the opposite,” he said. Corbyn said that a Labour government would seek greater international cooperation to end the conflict in Syria and “work to halt the drift to confrontation with Russia … winding down tensions on the Russia-NATO border.”

May’s Conservatives see Corbyn’s opposition to military action and nuclear weapons as a major weakness to be exploited in campaigning for the June 8 election. The party’s main slogan is “strong and stable” — in contrast to what May calls “a Corbyn-led coalition of chaos.”

Corbyn’s desire to scrap the U.K.’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines also puts him at odds with the official position of the Labour Party. “Jeremy Corbyn is a guy who has campaigned all his life to weaken the U.K.’s defenses,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

4-nation drills postponed after craft runs aground on Guam

May 12, 2017

NAVAL BASE GUAM (AP) — Military drills on Guam in which four countries were to practice amphibious landings and moving their troops have been postponed indefinitely after a French landing craft ran aground Friday.

The weeklong exercises involving the U.S., U.K., France and Japan were intended to show support for the free passage of vessels in international waters amid concerns China may restrict access to the South China Sea.

The French catamaran ran aground just offshore and didn’t hit coral or spill any fuel, said Jeff Landis, a spokesman for Naval Base Guam. No one was injured. Friday’s landing was meant to be a rehearsal for a drill at Tinian island on Saturday, Landis said.

U.S. Navy Capt. Jeff Grimes, chief of staff for Joint Region Marianas, said the authorities involved were working to assess the situation and didn’t know when the drills would resume. “I have directed that we stop all operations associated with this exercise until we conduct a further assessment of the situation as we gather all the facts,” Grimes said.

“NOAA in Honolulu is aware and is collecting information about the incident,” said Michael Tosatto, administrator of a National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration regional office. The drills around Guam and Tinian islands were scheduled to include amphibious landings, delivering forces by helicopter and urban patrols.

Two French ships on a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans were to be involved. Joining were Japanese forces, U.K. helicopters and 70 U.K. troops deployed with the French amphibious assault ship FS Mistral. Parts of the exercise were to feature British helicopters taking U.S. Marines ashore from a French vessel.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has tried to fortify those claims by building islands — some with runways, radars and weapons systems — on seven mostly submerged reefs. The reclamation work is opposed by other governments that claim the atolls and by the United States, which insists on freedom of navigation in international waters.

China says its work is intended to improve safety for ships and meet other civilian purposes. It has said it won’t interfere with freedom of navigation or overflight, although questions remain on whether that includes military ships and aircraft.

This week members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee expressed concern that the U.S. hasn’t conducted freedom-of-navigation operations since October. Republican Bob Corker, Democrat Ben Cardin and five other senators wrote the letter to President Donald Trump, saying they supported a recent U.S. military assessment that China is militarizing the South China Sea and is continuing a “methodical strategy” to control it.

The letter, dated Wednesday and obtained by The Associated Press, urged the administration to “routinely exercise” freedom of navigation and overflight. Japan, which sent 50 soldiers and 160 sailors and landing craft, has been investing in amphibious training so it can defend its own islands. Japan claims a group of rocky, uninhabited outcrops in the East China Sea that Beijing claims. Japan calls the islands Senkaku while China calls them Diaoyu.

Guam and Tinian are about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) south of Tokyo and about the same distance to the east from Manila, Philippines.

McAvoy reported from Honolulu. Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington contributed to this report from Washington.

Tag Cloud