ANKARA, August 12 -- The Turkish state can’t tolerate the gains by people of North and East Syria, or the democratic system they built, so they aim to invade the area under the guise of a “safe zone”.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu continued to issue threats of invasion against North and East Syria. Cavuşoğlu said: “What we say about the east of the Euphrates is this: We will either clear the area together, or Turkey will enter and clear away the terrorists. Like they were cleared from Afrin, like ISIS was cleared from Jarablus, we will clear the east of the Euphrates from YPG and PKK. Whatever the price may be. There is no change in our resolve here. We won’t let the US delay things like Manbij. We say this clearly, and we told them the same.” The Turkish state can’t tolerate the gains by people of North and East Syria, or the democratic system they built, so they aim to invade the area under the guise of a “safe zone”. North and East Syrian officials see Turkey’s insistence on a 32 km deep safe zone as an attempt to massacre the peoples of the region and to invade the area as a whole, and counter-propose patrols along the border under supervision by the international coalition, outside residential areas. North and East Syrian officials warn that a possible Turkish state attack will make the control of thousands of ISIS members in prisons difficult and risk subjecting the region and the world to terrorist attacks. They also say they will resist to the end.
NEW YORK, August 8 -- Islamic State is reinvesting in its ability to carry out sophisticated operations from Europe to South Asia by the end of 2019, a United Nations report has found.
“The ISIS covert network in the Syrian Arab Republic is spreading, and cells are being established at the provincial level, mirroring that which has been happening since 2017 in Iraq,” the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said. In the near term, the Islamic State will rely on locally-planned attacks in “unexpected locations,” similar to the Easter bombings carried out in Sri Lanka, they assessed. But the report, presented to the Security Council in July, warns that externally-planned attacks in high profile locations could ramp up as early as four months from now. “ISIS will reinvest in the capacity to direct and facilitate complex international attacks when it has the secure space and time to do so. The current abatement of such attacks, therefore, may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019,” it said. Tens of thousands of Islamic State loyalists and their children are now corralled in desert camps in northeastern Syria, where they were detained by US-backed Kurdish forces following the surrender of the last pocket of the caliphate in March. Neighboring Turkey has now threatened to seize the area from the Kurds – raising the possibility that some of Islamic State’s most hardcore members could escape.
Get out of jail
The UN report estimates that up to 30,000 foreign nationals who traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the caliphate are still alive, whether at large in the region, detained or relocated to Europe. These caliphate veterans now pose a radicalization threat, whether in prison or out. “The radicalization of criminals within the prison system remains a critical concern in Europe, where prisons provide a venue for inmates afflicted by poverty, marginalization, frustration, low self-esteem and violence to be influenced by radical ideologies,” it said. “In addition, some of the first wave of returnees from the ‘caliphate’ to be imprisoned are expected to be released in the coming year.” The monitoring team which carried out the report emphasized that data on the exact number of repatriations of foreign fighters to Europe and other regions remains sketchy. Approximately 2,000 nationals from the former Soviet states are now detained in northeastern Syria. Central Asian nations including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan cite their own citizens returning from the battlefields of Syria and Iraq are currently their primary terrorist threat. Central Asian migrant laborer communities in Russia and Turkey are also seen as particularly vulnerable to recruitment. The report also flags South and Southeast Asia as prime targets for Islamic State returnees, as evidenced by both successful and thwarted attacks. “Two troubling trends observed are the targeting of places of worship and the continued prominence of women in operational activities,” it said. Both returnees and attempted jihadists have been linked to attacks in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Islamic State has been resourceful in financing its activities post-caliphate, the report found, using small and medium-sized business to generate revenue, offering “seed money” to new affiliates and stashing valuable antiquities for a rainy day. “One Member State described ISIS affiliates being treated in a manner similar to start-up businesses, receiving ‘seed money’ and advice from head office,” it said. The group is estimated to have anywhere from US$50-300 million at its disposal to carry out its activities. However, “the group is adapting to its insurgency role with far fewer demands on its financial holdings.” The UN investigators learned that monetary transfers persist, with family members of active militants using personal or small business bank accounts in countries neighboring a given conflict zone – the cash then passed on by courier. Mobile payment applications and crypto currencies are cited as ripe for exploitation. A special ISIS unit – the ministry of “natural resources” – is believed to be responsible for the sale of antiquities which the group had excavated in Iraq and Syria. “Details of traded antiquities, as well as the current location of any stored antiquities, are assessed to be known only by ISIS leaders.” Preserving that leadership, at the top of which is self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains the primary concern of the group.
BRUSSELS, July 16 -- European Union foreign ministers agreed to freeze most high-level contacts with Turkey and cut the flow of funds to the country.
While holding back for now on sanctions that could target Turkish companies involved in offshore drilling in the eastern Mediterranean. The decision, signed off at a meeting of EU foreign policy chiefs in Brussels, calls for suspending negotiations on an aviation agreement with Ankara, halting scheduled ministerial meetings, reducing financial aid and inviting the European Investment Bank to review sovereign-backed lending to Turkey.
ANKARA, July 12 -- Turkey’s Defense Ministry has posted photos of the first batch of the Russian-made S-400 missile system’s equipment delivered to the country.
Official photos of the Turkish Defense Ministry show several prime movers and a transporter-loader of the S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Turkey’s Defense Ministry announced on Friday that the first batch of components has been delivered to the Murted Air Base near Ankara under the S-400 deal. Activities to deliver Russia’s S-400 air defense systems to Turkey scheduled for Friday are over, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said. "According to the plan, the third [Russian] plane has landed, the activities scheduled for today are over. The process will continue in the coming days," Anadolu Agency quotes him as saying. The minister noted that "in parallel with S-400 supplies, work to train personnel to install and operate these systems will continue in Turkey and Russia." He added that Ankara "continued to look into the feasibility of purchasing US Patriot missile systems." According to the Turkish Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the remaining components will be delivered in the near future.
The first reports about the talks between Russia and Turkey on the deliveries of S-400 air defense missile systems came in November 2016. In September 2017, Russia confirmed that that the relevant contract had been signed. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar earlier said that the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems could begin in October 2019. In December 2017, CEO of Russia’s state hi-tech corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov noted that the S-400 deal was worth $2.5 bln. The United States has been making attempts to prevent Turkey from purchasing Russia's S-400 missile systems. Washington earlier warned that it might deny Turkey the purchase of F-35 fighter-bombers, if Ankara pressed ahead with the S-400 deal. The S-400 ‘Triumf’ is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
Author: Lora Smith
ANKARA, July 1 -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Russia’s S-400 air defense systems will be delivered to Turkey within the next ten days, Turkey’s NTV television reported on Monday.
According to the TV channel, Erdogan was speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan, answering reporters’ questions after negotiations with his US counterpart Donald Trump. Erdogan was also certain that Turkey would be able to resolve disagreements with the US caused by the S-400 deal. Speaking at the final news conference at the G20 summit on Saturday, the Turkish president said that Washington would not impose sanctions on Ankara over the purchase of Russia’s S-400 systems. He also recalled that Ankara was awaiting the delivery of 100 fifth-generation F-35 fighter jets. Relations between Turkey and the United States have deteriorated in recent months because of Ankara’s S-400 deal with Moscow. Washington earlier warned Ankara that the US could refuse to sell F-35 jets to Turkey, if it purchased Russia’s air defense systems.
Author: Lora Smith
THE HAGUE, June 30 -- The meeting that Queen Máxima had during the G20 with the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has come to criticize her.
Agnes Callamard, who was investigating the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi for the UN, said he was confident that the prince had raised the issue of extrajudicial execution. "I trust that you have insisted on justice." The point now is that Máxima had not done that. She is a special advocate for the UN for inclusive financing (microcredit in developing countries). Among other things, they discussed the economic position improvement of women in Saudi Arabia, in preparation for the next G20 in Saudi Arabia. The murder of the columnist Washington Post in the Saudi consulate in Instanbul remained undiscussed. That is not good, according to Callamard, for whom silence equals complicity.
"Credible evidence" about responsibility
The Callamard UN investigation revealed that there is "credible evidence" that Bin Salman was responsible for the murder. Kashoggi, columnist from The Washington Post, was stunned with an injection during a visit to the consulate and killed with a plastic bag over his head. The body of the Saudi dissident, presumably cut to pieces, was never recovered. A critical response was received in the Lower House, including by D66, SP. "Is it really true that she did not talk about the murder of journalist Khashoggi?" Says MP Karabulut. "Incomprehensible." She wants to talk to Minister Blok (Foreign Affairs) about the meeting on Monday. The VVD also sees it differently. Member of Parliament Sven Koopmans is "proud that our queen is having difficult diplomatic talks." "The inclusive financing envoy dares to have a difficult conversation here about women's rights with someone far away from her."
The RVD said it was customary for the queen to have a conversation with the host of the next G20 summit, which is Saudi Arabia. "The conversation between Queen Maxima and Prince Mohammed bin Salman was conducted under the responsibility of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as usual in international performances by members of the Royal House," Algemeen Dagblad cited the RVD. "The cabinet was aware of the conversation."
US President Donald Trump also faced questions about his sit-down with Bin Salman at the G20 in Japan, his first face-to-face meeting since the US intelligence community concluded that the crown prince directed the killing of the Washington Post columnist. Trump, who called Bin Salman his "friend", has long sought to minimise the crown prince's role in the killing and has been reluctant to criticise the killing of the critic. Trump views the kingdom as the lynchpin of his Middle East strategy to counter Iran. At the news conference on Saturday, Trump was asked by a reporter if he agreed it was "despicable" for a government to kill a journalist. Trump replied: "Yes, I do. I think it's horrible. Or anybody else, by the way. And if you look at Saudi Arabia, you see what's happening, thirteen people, or so, have been prosecuted. Others are being prosecuted. They've taken it very, very seriously. And they will continue to." Callamard said the ongoing trial in Saudi Arabia was not carried out in "good faith". "Overall it does not meet international standards," she said. Only 11 out of 15 operatives who were at the consulate were being indicted, but their names and their charges have not been made public, said Callamard. She said the chain of command's responsibility was not being investigated and the trial's proceedings were contradicting the statements made by the public prosecutor. "For those who want to see a proper criminal trial taking place, an official request should be undertaken by the UN secretary-general upon the request of at least one member state," she said.
“The 657-page indictment against Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and 14 others does not contain a single shred of evidence that they were in any way involved in criminal activity, let alone conspiring to overthrow the government. Instead it is absurdly attempting to portray routine civil society activities as crimes. “This trial is nothing more than an egregious attempt to silence some of Turkey’s most prominent civil society figures. Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu must be immediately released and the absurd charges against all 16 of them must be dropped.”
Osman Kavala and Yiğit Aksakoğlu have been in pre-trial detention in the Silivri High Security Prison near Istanbul since 1 November 2017 and 17 November 2018 respectively. On 19 February 2019, the prosecution finally submitted an indictment against Osman Kavala, Yiğit Aksakoğlu and 14 others on the allegation of 'attempting to overthrow the government of the Turkish republic or to prevent it from performing its duties’. Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 30 accepted this indictment on 4 March 2019. The first hearing in the case is scheduled to take place on 24 and 25 June 2019 at Silivri prison, where Amnesty International representatives will be present. A much larger group of civil society figures continue to be investigated under the auspices of the same investigation
ISTANBUL, June 24 -- In a major blow to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamoglu has declared victory in the rerun of Istanbul's mayoral election, after initial results showed he was set for a clear win.
Imamoglu had won 54 percent of votes with almost all of the ballot boxes opened on Sunday, with the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) candidate trailing on 45 percent and conceding defeat. Imamoglu promised a "new beginning" for Turkey's largest city and commercial hub. "You have protected the reputation of democracy in Turkey," he told supporters. His opponent, former Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, conceded defeat after initial results showed he was set to lose by a decisive margin. "According to the result as of now, my competitor Ekrem Imamoglu is leading the race. I congratulate him and wish him good luck," Yildirim said. CHP's projected win in the Istanbul election ends the 17-year rule by the AK Party in the metropolis. The Istanbul mayoral election was first held on March 31, when Imamoglu secured 48.8 percent of the vote, while the AK Party's Yildirim held 48.55 percent, granting Imamoglu the title of mayor with a razor-thin margin. The AK Party proceeded to file an "extraordinary objection" to the results, leading the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) to annul the results and schedule Sunday's rerun.
SOCHI, June 20 -- The United States is escalating the situation around Iran, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday, commenting on Washington’s decision to dispatch additional Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft to the Middle East.
"We have spoken on many occasions that this reflects the policy towards deliberately escalating the situation. We have no doubts that the US political and military leadership is not stopping at any actions whatsoever in order to maximally complicate the situation and, most importantly, increase pressure on Iran. This fully contradicts our understanding of what has to be done in such situations, namely, to double diplomatic and political efforts to stabilize the situation and reduce tension, create pre-requisites for implementing a whole range of ideas that were also put forward by Russia, which stands for developing a system of collective security, strengthening confidence-building measures in the Persian Gulf region and establishing direct contacts between countries of that region," the high-ranking Russian diplomat stressed, responding to a questions. Otherwise, the region may plunge into a new conflict, which is "completely inadmissible, considering the grave consequences of such a scenario," Ryabkov said. "There is still time to stop and come to senses and prevent further sliding into uncontrolled confrontation. Unfortunately, our calls and our logic to this effect, apparently, fail to meet understanding in the United States and they do not listen to us but still I think that an overwhelming majority of members of the international community share this approach and proceed from the fact that there is no alternative to it," the Russian deputy foreign minister said.
The US Defense Department announced on Wednesday that it was dispatching additional Patriot surface-to-air missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles and aircraft to the Middle East for gathering intelligence data. As the Pentagon stated, this will be done as part of the decision announced on Monday to dispatch 1,000 US military personnel to the region due to the situation around Iran.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo earlier stated the United States was considering all options to counter Iran in the region. He let it know that the US administration would not request legislators’ approval for possible military operations against Tehran, arguing this was required to defend American interests.
CAIRO, June 18 -- Egypt's former President Mohamed Morsi was buried on Tuesday in eastern Cairo, his son said, a day after he collapsed in court and died shortly after.
Morsi was buried early in the morning alongside other senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood, his son, Ahmed Morsi, said on his Facebook page. The burial was attended by members of the family in Cairo's Madinat Nasr after authorities refused to grant permission for a burial in Morsi's home province of Sharqiya in the Nile Delta, Ahmed Morsi said. "We washed his noble body at Tora prison hospital, read prayers for him at the prison hospital ... and the burial was at the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual guides," Ahmed wrote. Morsi's lawyer, Abdel Moneim Abdel Maksoud, confirmed the burial took place early on Tuesday.
Morsi, who was a leading figure in the Brotherhood, became Egypt's first democratically elected president in 2012, one year after the Arab Spring uprising saw the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. He was deposed in July 2013 following mass protests and a military coup led by Egypt's current President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, after which he was immediately arrested. He had been in detention ever since. The Brotherhood, which has since been outlawed, said Morsi's death was a "full-fledged murder" and called on Egyptians to gather for a mass funeral. In a statement on its website, the Brotherhood also called for crowds to gather outside Egyptian embassies around the world.