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US reveals new policy on Syria

- David34 - US reveals new policy on Syria


WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Testifying at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, David Satterfield, revealed a new US policy on Syria that took even the senators by surprise.

The long-standing US policy—going back to the Obama administration—has been to support the UN-mediated Geneva talks to secure a political settlement that ends Syria’s protracted civil war, as well as Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

However, as successive senators expressed their skepticism about prospects for the success of the Geneva talks, Satterfield revealed that the Trump administration, in fact, shared those concerns and had an alternative plan.

Toward the end of the hearing, pressed by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), Satterfield stated, “We absolutely contemplate the kind of alternative outcome that you have laid out, in which the Geneva talks fail, because Russia does not cooperate, and Iran maintains a military presence in Syria, along with the militias it has trained and supported there.”

Satterfield stated that, in that case, the US would maintain an open-ended military presence in eastern Syria where it now has some 2,000 troops.

The US would support northeastern Syria—the area now controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—as a distinct political entity.

US objectives would be two-fold: to provide an alternative political model within Syria to Assad’s brutal rule and to counter “Iran and its ability to enhance its presence in Syria,” Satterfield explained.

Asked about Turkey’s likely reaction, he replied, “We very much understand” Turkish concerns with “the PKK association of many elements of the SDF.”

However, US-sponsored stabilization efforts would include “the emergence of a different kind of local governance-based political structure,” which would not be Kurdish, “but a multi-ethnic mix,” Satterfield said.

“We see significant receptivity” within the SDF leadership in how they “move beyond what they have been in the past and beyond the associations which Turkey finds so objectionable,” he stated.

However, the main purpose of the open-ended US military presence in Syria would be to counter Iran. This point most concerned the committee.

“You are operating under a flawed premise,” Murphy told Satterfield, “which is that there is any future for Syria that does not involve a substantial role for Iran.”

“It worries me that you are telling the committee that our military presence in Syria will continue as long as Iran’s does,” the senator continued.

Satterfield’s revelations came as news to the Committee, and its chairman, Sen Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) affirmed the need to “talk more fully about what may be contemplated.”

As the hearing ended, Corker explained that the Pentagon had refused the committee’s request to testify, giving them “a tremendous runaround.” Perhaps, he suggested, one reason was the seeming “contour change” in the military mission.

To an unusual degree, the Trump administration seems to be coordinating its policy in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia.

On Sunday, the London-based Arabic paper, Asharq Al-Awsat, owned by the Saudi royal family, reported that the US would “soon take concrete steps toward diplomatically recognizing” the region east of the Euphrates under SDF control.

Asked about that report, State Department officials seemed to deny it, reaffirming the US commitment to Syria’s territorial integrity.

However, it now seems to be true, even as Congress will want to hear more, to judge from Thursday’s hearing.

Editing by Nadia Riva



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Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin

- AfrinReu - Social media crackdown on citizens, lawmakers follows Turkey’s attacks on Afrin


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities launched investigations on Monday against scores of people—among them journalists, writers, and lawmakers—and arrested dozens of others over their criticism on social media of Ankara’s invasion of the Kurdish region of Afrin in northwestern Syria.

The chief public prosecutor’s office in Istanbul announced probes targeting 57 individuals for the crimes of “propaganda in support of a terror group, inciting public hostility, insulting the President, and sharing content that contravenes realities.”

Over the weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke harshly of those daring to protest his army’s aerial and ground attacks on the isolated Kurdish enclave where Turkish airstrikes have killed dozens, among them civilians and fighters of the US-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG).

He vowed to “pulverize” them, directing his words also at the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), an opposition bloc already bracing an ongoing crackdown since late 2016 that saw its Co-leader Selahattin Demirtas, nine lawmakers, 80 mayors, and thousands of members imprisoned.

In the Kurdish province of Mardin, Diyarbakir, and Mus, police arrested at least 30 people.

Journalist Nurcan Baysal and local co-head of HDP’s branch in Diyarbakir’s Bismil district Refai Baran were detained in midnight raids for their tweets and Facebook posts in support of the people of Afrin.

Three other journalists and authors, Ishak Karakas, Aziz Tunc, and Ismail Eskin, were also taken into custody by Istanbul police.

According to the Turkish Journalists’ Association, prisons across Turkey are home to over 160 reporters, photographers, writers, and other media workers.

Elsewhere, in Van, on the border with Iranian Kurdistan, the public prosecutor began probes against four HDP lawmakers representing the province at the Turkish Parliament.

In Dersim, MP Ali Oncel was the target of another Ankara-appointed prosecutor.

HDP Spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen and Hakkari MP Nadir Yildirim were already under investigations for their tweets regarding the Afrin offensive.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany



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Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin

- EUparl - Members of European Parliament condemn Turkish attack on Afrin


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Members of the European Parliament on Monday condemned Turkey’s ongoing military operation against Kurds in the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin.

Cypriot MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou, who is also the Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation to Turkey, “strongly condemned the Turkish invasion” by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Syrian Kurdistan (Rojava).

“We stand with all the peacekeeping forces that call for an immediate end to the invasion and the withdrawal of Turkish troops,” Hadjigeorgiou continued.

“We express our solidarity with the Syrian people and the Kurds in both Syria and Turkey who are constantly threatened by the Turkish government,” he added.

German MEP Martina Michels also criticized the military operation in Afrin, stressing that “it is unacceptable that the Turkish army has been attacking Kurdish villages.”

“[The campaign in Afrin] goes to the heart of Erdogan’s long-held dream of destroying Kurdish self-determination—not just within Turkey, but in Iraq and Syria as well,” she said.

Meanwhile, French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat called on the international community to “act quickly by taking a stand against these operations and by bolstering our support to the inhabitants of Afrin.”

During a meeting with European foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday, Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, said she was “extremely worried” about the ongoing Turkish attacks against Syrian Kurds in Afrin.

Mogherini also noted that the violence might undermine the peace talks on Syria in Geneva, and severely affect the humanitarian situation on the ground.



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KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week

- AbadiKRG - KRG PM to meet Abadi for second time this week


ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister announced he would be meeting with his Iraqi counterpart at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday.

During a press conference following a Council of Ministers meeting in Erbil on Monday, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said he had a “productive meeting” with Iraqi PM Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad on Sunday and is scheduled to meet him again in Davos.

Prime Minister Barzani and an accompanying KRG delegation met with Abadi in Baghdad for the first time since the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 independence referendum.

Barzani said he had discussed the salaries of public employees, oil, airports, and border crossings with Abadi, adding the KRG “will be in communication with the Baghdad-appointed committees sent to the Kurdistan Region to resolve all the outstanding issues.”

Barzani, who will attend the World Economic Forum, revealed that he would sit with the Iraqi PM and Minister of Oil once again, noting that the meetings between the KRG and the Iraqi government would continue in the future.

Regarding the end of an international flight ban on the Kurdistan Region’s airports, the KRG Prime Minister admitted it was still unclear when Baghdad would lift the ban, but said the relevant committees had been working to resolve the issues.

Barzani also explained that the KRG delegation’s visits to Tehran and Baghdad “did not result in any agreements as we worked on restoring the two sides’ relations with the Kurdistan Region.”

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany



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