Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion 2019-10-14T13:57:12Z https://www.juancole.com/feed/atom WordPress Juan Cole http://juancole.com <![CDATA[Trump’s Saigon Evacuation Moment, as US Troops Flee and Syrian/Russian Forces are invited in by Kurds]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186847 2019-10-14T13:57:12Z 2019-10-14T04:36:17Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – For us oldsters, one of the iconic photographs of the twentieth century was the last US military helicopter taking off from the roof of the US embassy in Saigon, with desperate people hanging off it, fearful of what would happen to them when they fell into the hands of the victorious Viet Cong.

It happened on the watch of president Gerald Ford, though it was really Dick Nixon who negotiated a US defeat in Vietnam in 1972, after which the US began withdrawing. Ford nevertheless suffered some public opprobrium, and the debacle may have helped Jimmy Carter defeat him the following year.

Embed from Getty Images
Evacuation of Saigon
A CIA employee (probably O.B. Harnage) helps Vietnamese evacuees onto an Air America helicopter from the top of 22 Gia Long Street, a half mile from the U.S. Embassy. h/t Getty Images.

In Syria, this is Trump’s Saigon Moment. All US special forces personnel are being withdrawn from Syria after Turkish artillery targeted some of their bases to force them back from the border, and after Turkey cut off their supply lines. At the same time, Syrian Arab Army troops are advancing on the Kurdish northeast of Syria, raising the danger of US troops getting caught in the crossfire. A thousand such troops are too few even to defend themselves, and although no one is saying so, I suspect they also fear the anger of their betrayed allies, the People’s Protection Units or YPG, among whom they have been embedded, but whom Trump has now turned over to Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan’s abattoir.

Ironically, the troops will evacuate to Turkey, presumably to Incirlik Air Force Base, which the US leases. Although the US military is hoping for an orderly retreat and successful deconfliction with Turkey’s military, the shadow of danger has fallen over US troops in the chaos of the fall of the Kurdish mini-state. Not since 1975 have they had to rush for the exits in quite this ignominious a fashion, and it is said that they are angry about it, especially about the US betrayal of the Kurds who bravely fought alongside them against ISIL.

As the US withdraws, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Army is coming in. The YPG Kurds have already turned their checkpoints in east Aleppo over to the SAA, according to some reports.

Likewise, the YPG in the enclave of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) have invited the Russians and the regime in, and they were expected to arrive Sunday evening.

It may seem like a long time ago, but Kobani was besieged by ISIL in September, 2014, and the dire character of their circumstances convinced the Obama administration to intervene for them from the air, a step toward deeper US involvement in Syria.

That partnership with the Kurds in pushing back ISIL, the cult of terror, is now over, as dozens of high-value ISIL captives have escaped in the chaos of the Turkish invasion.

Instead, the Kurds are appealing to Russia to mediate for them with the Syrian Baathist regime, a notoriously cruel and vindictive one-party state that sees the Kurds’ alliance with the US 2014-2019 as having been treasonous, as Al-Jazeera points out. The regime has tortured 10,000 dissidents to death, and even if its Syrian Arab Army troops do come in to frustrate the Turkish advance, they will almost certainly start rounding up Kurdish leaders of the autonomous Kurdish region.

Other Syrian Arab Army units are heading toward the northeast region called the Jazira.

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Bonus Video:

CNN reporter: Situation in Syria deteriorates as Trump withdraws remaining troops

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The Conversation <![CDATA[As Turkish troops move in to Syria, the risks are great – including for Turkey itself]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186843 2019-10-14T04:41:48Z 2019-10-14T04:02:34Z By Mehmet Ozalp | –

Turkey did not waste much time in launching an attack on Syrian soil just days after US President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw US forces from northern Syria. As this development opens a new chapter in Syria, Turkey maybe unwittingly sinking deeper into that country’s civil war.

This is not the first time president Trump has mentioned withdrawal from Syria – he voiced it in April 2018.

Alleged gas attacks by the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s incumbent government followed, which resulted in the US continuing its stay in Syria despite its reluctant president.

The US government has always been tentative with its Syrian policy, which was openly exploited by Russia in its bid to support the Assad government’s grip on power in the embattled country.

It is also not the first time Turkey has talked about a military presence in Syria. In January 2018, it sent troops to north-western Syria, establishing its control over lands to the west of the Euphrates river. Turkey has increased its military build up on the Syrian border ever since.

The US contained any further Turkish advances by making it clear Turkey was not welcome to the east of the river, especially when the US needed the support of Kurdish forces in ending Islamic States’s presence in Syria.

Why does Turkey want to increase its military presence in Syria?

There are three main reasons Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is eager to send more troops in to northern Syria east of the Euphrates river.

The first is the prospect of free Kurdish states near its borders inspiring the sizeable Kurdish populations in the south east of Turkey to seek similar aspirations. Northern Iraq is slowly moving towards independence. If Kurds in northern Syria were to establish an autonomous region, it would only be a matter of time before the same demands were raised in Turkey.

Fearing this development, Erdogan has pursued an increasingly tough policy on Kurdish political activities in Turkey. The leader of pro-Kurdish party HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in jail for almost three years.

Turkey’s second concern is the reported 3.5 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey since the conflict began in 2011. Although they were initially welcomed with open arms, there is growing discontent in the Turkish media and society, with many calling for their return.

Opposition parties have been critical of the Erdogan government’s inability to effectively manage the refugee crisis, which was one of the key issues that led to Erdogan’s loss in this year’s Istanbul elections.

Erdogan plans to create a safe zone in Northern Syria, establish new settlements within this region and slowly move Arab Syrian refugees back to Syria. This will change the demographics of the region and undermine Kurdish dominance.

Erdogan’s third aim is to make a political investment for future elections. This may be the most important reason, as Erdogan first mentioned a military offensive in Syria soon after his local government election loss in June 2019.

The Turkish leader needs the coalition with MHP, the nationalist party, to maintain his grip on power and enhance his chance of re-election. He needs a war to unify his electorate, please his coalition partner and silence the growing critical voices in the midst of a worsening Turkish economy.

Erdogan made strong hints in August he would send troops to northern Syria against the US-allied YPG, which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group. He was most likely testing international, especially US, reaction. The US responded by offering a joint operation in the region.

It appears Erdogan thought the US involvement was limiting his goals and wasting his time. Perhaps he reasoned the timing was right to make a bold move when Trump was politically weakened by an impeachment inquiry.

It seems Erdogan’s strategy worked. Trump agreed to withdraw from Syria on the condition Turkey took responsibility for handling thousands of IS prisoners and their families in camps.

Trump added a threat to “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey” if it was to do anything considered “off-limits”. But the move was still a green light for Turkey to send troops to Syria.

What is likely to happen now?

Trump’s announcement does not mean the US is pulling out of Syria completely. It’s likely the US will continue to have a presence in eastern Syria to watch developments closely and intervene if the situation deteriorates.

A total pull-out would further weaken Trump. He would not want to risk the already-waning Republican party’s support over concerns about a resurgence of IS in Syria.

Russia seems to be pleased with the developments. Putin knows the US withdrawal means greater Russian influence and shores up the Assad government. Since Erdogan does everything with full Russian endorsement, their close collaboration gives Russia leverage in its political and diplomatic struggle with the NATO.

One possibility is that Turkish forces do not face much resistance. They would then only advance to a limited region, with their stated aim of establishing a safe zone and returning Syrian refugees back to Syria. This may contain the situation without further escalation.

Another possibility is that the US abandoning its protection of the Kurdish YPG forces in northern Syria will have a cascading effects. A sizeable portion of Kurdish civilians may be displaced, and some may flee in advance, fearing the worst.

The Kurdish YPG forces may initially avoid open conflict with the advancing Turkish forces, and look for new alliances in Syria. The most likely candidate for this is Assad, who may see an opportunity to bring the Kurdish populations and regions under his control.

If an Assad-Kurdish partnership eventuates, Turkish forces may be drawn into the war within Syria.

Kurdish populations in Turkey may then become involved, threatening Turkey with what it fears the most – a Kurdish insurrection within its own borders.The Conversation

Mehmet Ozalp, Associate Professor in Islamic Studies, Director of The Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation and Executive Member of Public and Contextual Theology, Charles Sturt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Turkey’s FM defends Syria incursion as Germany and France halt arms sales | DW News

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Tom Engelhardt http://tomdispatch.com/ <![CDATA[Amerexit? Trump and the End of the Anglo-American Order]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186841 2019-10-14T02:02:17Z 2019-10-14T04:02:20Z ( Tomdispatch.com ) – Donald Trump may prove to be the ultimate Brexiteer. Back in August 2016, in the midst of his presidential campaign, he proudly tweeted, “They will soon be calling me MR. BREXIT!” On the subject of the British leaving the European Union (EU) he’s neither faltered nor wavered. That June, he was already cheering on British voters, 51.9% of whom had just opted for Brexit in a nationwide referendum. They had, he insisted, taken “their country back” and he predicted that other countries, including you-know-where, would act similarly. As it happened, Mr. “America First” was proven anything but wrong in November 2016.

Ever since, he’s been remarkably eager to insert himself in Britain’s Brexit debate. Last July, for instance, he paid an official visit to that country and had tea with the queen (“an incredible lady… I feel I know her so well and she certainly knows me very well right now”). As Politico put it at the time, “In just a matter of a few hours, he snubbed the leader of the opposition — who wants a close relationship with the EU after Brexit and if he can’t get it, advocates a second referendum on the options — in favor of meeting with two avid Brexiteers and chatting with a third.” Oh, and that third person just happened to be the man who would become the present prime minister, Brexiteer-to-hell Boris Johnson.

Since then, of course, he’s praised Johnson’s stance — get out now, no deal — to the heavens, repeatedly promising to sign a “very big” trade agreement or “lots of fantastic mini-deals” with the Brits once they dump the European Union. (And if you believe there will be no strings attached to that generous offer, you haven’t been paying attention to the presidency of one Donald J. Trump.) In Britain itself, sentiment about Brexiting the EU remains deeply confused, or perhaps more accurately disturbed, and little wonder. It’s clear enough that, from the economy to medical supplies, cross-Channel traffic snarl-ups to the Irish border, a no-deal Brexit is likely to prove problematic in barely grasped ways, as well as a blow to living standards. Still, there can be little question that the leaving option has been disturbing at a level that goes far deeper than just fear of the immediate consequences.

Remember, we’re talking about the greatest power of the late eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, the country that launched the industrial revolution, whose navy once ruled the waves, and that had more colonies and military garrisons in more places more permanently than any country in history. Now, it’s about to fall into what will someday be seen as the subbasement of imperial history. Think of Johnson’s version of Brexiting as a way of saying goodbye to all that with a genuine flourish. Brexit won’t just be an exit from the European Union but, for all intents and purposes, from history itself. It will mark the end of a century-long fall that will turn Britain back into a relatively inconsequential island kingdom.

Exiting the American Century

By now, you might think that all of this is a lesson written in the clouds for anyone, including Donald Trump, to see. Not that he will. After all, though no one thinks of him this way, he really is our own American Brexiteer. In some inchoate and (if I can use such a word for such a man) groping fashion, he, too, wants us out; not, of course, from the European Union, though he’s no fan of either the EU or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but from the whole global system of alliances and trade arrangements that Washington has forged since 1945 to ensure the success of the “American Century” — to cement, that is, its global position as the next Great Britain.

Not so long ago, when it came to Washington’s system of global power, the U.S. was the sun for orbiting allies in alliances like NATO, the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization, and the Organization of American States. Meanwhile, the U.S. military had scattered an unprecedented number of military garrisons across much of the planet. In the wake of the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States briefly seemed to be not just the next but potentially the last Great Britain. Its leaders came to believe that this country had been leftin a position of unique dominance on Planet Earth at “the end of history” and perhaps until the end of time. In the years after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, it came to be known as “the sole superpower” or, in the phrase of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “the indispensable nation.” It briefly seemed to find itself in a position no country, not even the Roman or British empires, had ever been in.

Now, in his own half-baked, half-assed fashion, Donald Trump is promoting another kind of first: his unique version of “America First.” Two New York Times reporters, David Sanger and Maggie Haberman, evidently reminded him of that isolationist phrase from the pre-World War II era in an interview in March 2016 during his election run. They described the exchange this way: “He agreed with a suggestion [of ours] that his ideas might be summed up as ‘America First.’”

“Not isolationist, but I am America First,” he said. “I like the expression.” So much so that, from then on, he would use it endlessly in his presidential campaign.

Donald Trump has, of course, been something of a collector of, or perhaps sponge for, the useful past slogans of others (as well as the present ones of his right-wing followers in the Twittersphere). As any red baseball cap should remind us, the phrase that helped loft him to the presidency was, of course, “Make America Great Again,” or MAGA, a version of an old line from Ronald Reagan’s winning election campaign of 1980. He had the foresight to try to trademark it only days after Mitt Romney lost his bid for the presidency to Barack Obama in November 2012.

Both phrases would appeal deeply to what became known as his “base” — a significant crew in the heartland, particularly in rural America, who felt as if (in a country growing ever more economically unequal) the American dream was over. Their futures and those of their children no longer seemed to be heading up but down toward the subbasement of economic subservience. Their unions had been broken, their jobs shipped elsewhere, their hopes and those for their kids left in the gutter. In a country whose leadership class still had soaring dreams of global domination and wealth beyond compare, whose politicians (Republican and Democratic alike) felt obliged to speak of American greatness, they were — and Donald Trump sensed it — the first American declinists.

At the time, however, few focused on the key word in that slogan of his, the final one: again. As I wrote back in April 2016, with that single word, candidate Trump reached out to them, however intuitively, and crossed a line that would feel familiar today to someone like Boris Johnson in a British context. With it, he had, to put it bluntly, begun to exit the American century. He had become, as I commented then, “the first American leader or potential leader of recent times not to feel the need or obligation to insist that the United States, the ‘sole’ superpower of Planet Earth, is an ‘exceptional’ nation, an ‘indispensable’ country, or even in an unqualified sense a ‘great’ one.” He had, in short, become America’s first declinist presidential candidate, striking a new chord here, just as the Brexiteers would do in England.

As I also wrote then, “Donald Trump, in other words, is the first person to run openly and without apology on a platform of American decline.” This country, he made clear, was no longer “great.” In doing so (and in speaking out, after a fashion, against America’s forever wars of this century), he grasped, in his own strange way, the inheritance that the post-Cold War Washington establishment had left both him and the rest of the country.

After all, if Donald Trump hadn’t noticed that something was truly wrong, someone would have. As the planet’s sole superpower with a military budget that left every other nation (evenbevies of them) in the shade, the U.S. had, since 2001, invaded two countries, repeatedly bombed many more, and fought conflicts that spread across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa. Those wars, when launched in 2001 (Afghanistan) and 2003 (Iraq), were visibly meant both to demonstrate and ensure American dominion over much of the planet. Fifteen years later, as Donald Trump alone seemed to grasp, they had done the very opposite.

MR. BREXIT!

By the time The Donald took to the campaign trail, the U.S. had not had a single true victory in this century. Not even in Afghanistan where it all began. In the years before he entered the Oval Office, the world’s only truly “exceptional” power had mainly proven exceptionally incapable (in ways that weren’t true in the Cold War years) of making its desires and will felt anywhere, except as a force for ultimate disruption and displacement.

Globally speaking, despite all its alliances, its unparalleled military power, and its loneliness at the top — Russia remained a nuclear-armed but fragile petro-state and China was visibly rising but not yet “super” — it looked distinctly like a great power in the early stages of decline. As not just Donald Trump’s but Bernie Sanders’s campaign suggested in 2016, there was clearly a kind of decline underway at home as well, a process of hollowing out that extended from the economy to the courts to the political system.

It was no mistake that, in January 2017, in a new age of plutocracy and degradation, a billionaire entered the White House — or that his first major domestic act (with a Republican Congress) would be a tax cut that only gave yet more to the already extraordinarily wealthy. Nor would it be strange that, for the first time, the 400 wealthiest Americans would actually have a lower tax rate than any other income group.

Though The Donald did insist that he would make this country great again, his presidency has proven a distinctly declinist one. However instinctively, however chaotically, however impulsively, he has, after all, been hard at work cracking open the American imperial system as it once existed and directing the country into a future ripe for candidates with yet redder hats and slogans.

If Boris Johnson is plugging for a Britain Last moment, Donald Trump, despite his bravado and braggadocio, has been treading a similar path for the greatest power on the planet. In his trade wars, he’s been intent on cracking open the American global economic system, whether in relation to the EU, China, or allies like Japan and South Korea. In his relations with such allies, he’s been hard at work undermining the alliances that once ensured American power and influence, even as he cozies up to autocrats and plutocrats the world over.

Of course, in October 2019, its forever wars and new trade wars notwithstanding, the United States remains the strongest military power on the planet, not to speak of the wealthiest one around. So no matter what President Trump may do, we’re not about to join Great Britain in that imperial subbasement any time soon. Still, as the Trump years should already have made clear, we are in at least the early stages of an American Brexit, globally and domestically.

When the Trumpian era ends, whether in 2020, 2024, or at some other unpredictable moment, count on this: the American global system will have been cracked open, the domestic political and judicial systems undermined further, and this country made even more unequal in a gilded age beyond compare, as well as split at least in two (“civil war”!) in terms of popular sentiment.

There is, however, a difference between a British and an American Brexit. While a British one could harm the European Union (and even perhaps the American economy), its effects (except on England itself) should be relatively modest. On our overheating orb, however, an American Brexit could take the planet down with it. We are, after all, on a world in decline.

Think of Donald Trump as the president of that decline or, if you prefer, as MR. BREXIT!

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He runs TomDispatch.com and is a fellow of the Type Media Center. His sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War (Dispatch Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel (the second in the Splinterlands series) Frostlands, Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Copyright 2019 Tom Engelhardt

Via Tomdispatch.com

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump meet amid their political crises | Brexit

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Sam Pizzigati <![CDATA[In the Billionaires’ America, Inequality Is Literally Killing Us]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186845 2019-10-14T02:39:46Z 2019-10-14T04:01:51Z ( Otherwords.org) – Again and again, studies show that the richer wealthy Americans become, the shorter the rest of us live.

What do the folks at the U.S. Census Bureau do between the census they run every 10 years? All sorts of annual surveys, on everything from housing costs to retail sales.

The most depressing of these — at least this century — may be the sampling that looks at the incomes average Americans are earning.

The latest Census Bureau income stats, released in mid-September, show that most Americans are running on a treadmill, getting nowhere fast. The nation’s median households pocketed 2.3 percent fewer real dollars in 2018 than they earned in 2000.

America’s most affluent households have no such problem. Real incomes for the nation’s top 5 percent of earners have increased 13 percent since 2000, to an average $416,520.

The new Census numbers don’t tell us how much our top 1 percent is pulling down. But IRS tax return data shows that top 1 percenters are now pulling down over 20 percent of all household income — essentially triple their share from a half-century ago.

Should we care about any of this? Is increasing income at the top having an impact on ordinary Americans? You could say so, suggests a just-released Government Accountability Office study.

Rising inequality, this federal study makes clear, is killing us. Literally.

The disturbing new GAO research tracks how life has played out for Americans who happened to be between the ages of 51 and 61 in 1992. That cohort’s wealthiest 20 percent turned out to do fairly well. Over three-quarters of them — 75.5 percent — went on to find themselves still alive and kicking in 2014, the most recent year with full stats available.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, it’s a different story.

Among Americans in the poorest 20 percent of this age group, under half — 47.6 percent — were still waking up every morning in 2014. In other words, the poorest of the Americans the GAO studied had just a 50-50 chance of living into 2014. The most affluent had a three-in-four chance.

“The inequality of life expectancy,” as economist Gabriel Zucman puts it, “is exploding in the U.S.”

The new GAO numbers ought to surprise no one. Over recent decades, a steady stream of studies have shown consistent links between rising inequality and shorter lifespans.

The trends we see in the United States reflect similar dynamics worldwide, wherever income and wealth are concentrating. The more unequal a society becomes, the less healthy the society.

On the other hand, the nations with the narrowest gaps between rich and poor turn out to have the longest lifespans.

And the people living shorter lives don’t just include poorer people. Middle-income people in deeply unequal societies live shorter lives than middle-income people in more equal societies.

What can explain how inequality makes this deadly impact? We don’t know for sure. But many epidemiologists — scientists who study the health of populations — point to the greater levels of stress in deeply unequal societies. That stress wears down our immune systems and leaves us more vulnerable to a wide variety of medical maladies.

We have, of course, no pill we can take to eliminate inequality. But we can fight for public policies that more equally distribute America’s income and wealth. Other nations have figured out how to better share the wealth. Why can’t we?

Via Otherwords.org

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

PBS NewsHour: “How economic inequality might affect a society’s well-being”

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Juan Cole http://juancole.com <![CDATA[Kurds consider Asking for Russian No-Fly Zone as Moscow demands Foreign Armies leave Syria]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186835 2019-10-13T04:43:15Z 2019-10-13T04:43:15Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) –

A CNN exclusive by Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne reveals that Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi told the US, “I need to know if you are capable of protecting my people, of stopping these bombs falling on us or not. I need to know, because if you’re not, I need to make a deal with Russia and the regime now and invite their planes to protect this region.”

Gen. Abdi told William Roebuck,the Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL, “You have given up on us. You are leaving us to be slaughtered.”

A close reading of the Russian press, however, shows that a Russian no-fly zone against Turkey in northeast Syria is highly unlikely.

Although US politicians and pundits keep saying that the Turkish invasion benefits Russia, in fact Moscow is clearly very uncomfortable with it. It may end up inadvertently aiding the major Russian ally in Syria, the government of Bashar al-Assad, if it forces the Kurds into Assad’s arms. But Russia hasn’t connived in it, and its benefits to Moscow are uncertain.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called for all foreign militaries to leave Syria, according to Reuters: “Everyone who is illegitimately on the territory of any state, in this case Syria, must leave this territory. This applies to all states,”

Except we know that Putin was only talking about the United States and Turkey, not about his allies, Iran and Lebanon’s Hizbullah.

BBC monitoring reports that the state-owned Rossiya 1 and NTV complained about the Turkish invasion placing civilians at risk, and were especially scathing about the Sunni Arab auxiliaries fighting alongside Turkish troops as disregarding civilian security. They did not go so far as criticize Turkey directly.

The Russian position is that the Turkish incursion is a legitimate way to safeguard Turkish security, as long as it doesn’t go too far.

Last week, Michael Jansen noted that Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, admitted that Russia recognizes “Turkey’s right to ensure its security”, but he cautioned Turkey’s government to “refrain from any actions that may create obstacles on the path of a Syrian [political] settlement.”

Russia has never controlled the Kurdish-dominated northeast, concentrating on helping the al-Assad regime reassert itself in the rest of the country. So Moscow does not have a dog in the fight in some ways.

Both networks interviewed war correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny, who appears to take a pro-Putin line in his analysis. He says that the Syria Kurds are at least partially responsible for their own predicament. BBC Monitoring translated him as saying, “For the past few years leaders of Kurdish formations have been demonstratively ignoring the interests of Damascus.” He criticized Kurdish hyper-nationalism, saying that the Kurds insist they are fighting for their motherland.

He insisted, “the land is not theirs, but Syria’s.” He did not mention that Syria as far back as the mid-1960s had stripped citizenship from many Kurds, leaving them stateless and with little reason to invest their loyalties in Syria.

He also blamed them for subordinating themselves to the interests of Washington.

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Bonus Video:

AP: “Syria Kurds protest against US withdrawal”

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Basav Sen <![CDATA[Dig Beneath the World’s Far-Right Governments — You’ll Find Fossil Fuels]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186832 2019-10-13T01:53:19Z 2019-10-13T04:03:07Z (Foreign Policy in Focus) – From Brazil to India to the United States, extractive industries have aligned themselves with authoritarian governments waging war on minority populations.

The world’s burgeoning far-right movements are far-flung and diverse, but in government they share a few core tendencies: They attack minority populations. They criminalize dissent. And they’re horrible for the planet.

The slide into extractivist authoritarianism in the U.S. is part of a worldwide trend, exemplified by the parallels between the U.S. and Brazil, where far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is presiding over an accelerated destruction of the Amazon, attacks on Indigenous Brazilians, and brazen profiteering by aligned corporate interests.

Another striking international parallel was on display recently in Houston, Texas, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared the stage with Trump at an event that felt like a fascist rally.

I’m not using the term “fascist” lightly. Here’s a brief explanation for readers unfamiliar with Indian history.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Modi’s political party, is rooted in a much older organization called the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a connection the BJP doesn’t deny — Modi himself is a long-time RSS member.

Early RSS ideologues were inspired by European fascism. B.S. Moonje, a mentor of RSS founder K.B. Hegdewar, visited Italy, met with Mussolini, toured fascist youth indoctrination camps, and was inspired to popularize an Indian version of these camps through the RSS.

M.S. Golwalkar, another early RSS leader, openly praised Nazism in his writings. He wanted to create a Hindu nationalist India based on the ethnonationalist, militaristic vision of fascism. Golwalkar never apologized for or retracted these views during his lifetime, and the RSS waited 67 years to publicly repudiate them, making the repudiation not particularly credible.

But this isn’t just an ancient skeleton in the BJP’s closet. The violent ethnonationalism that RSS leadership admired and espoused in the 1930s is very much alive in the agenda of today’s BJP. This ideology views Muslims as the enemy of India’s national identity, and Muslims have been the main target of the Modi government’s politics of violence and repression.

The best-known example is the BJP government’s escalation of the decades-long conflict in Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Article 370 of the Indian Constitution provided for a certain measure of autonomy for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35A, a provision of Article 370, restricted acquisition of land in the state by persons from outside it.

In August, the Modi government unilaterally scrapped Article 370 using questionable means. This was a prelude to the further militarization of an already heavily militarized territory, a communications blockade that eliminated all internet, mobile phone, and landline service, and worsening violence against Kashmiris, with reports of deaths, torture, and detention (including detention of children).

Eliminating Article 35A opens the door to changing the demographics of Muslim-majority Kashmir through settlement, much like Israel’s practice in occupied Palestine. Doing so would be completely consistent with the BJP’s ethnonationalism.

A lesser known example of the Modi government’s Islamophobia is its campaign to strip Muslims of alleged Bangladeshi descent in the state of Assam of their Indian citizenship unless they can prove their citizenship — in a country where most people, especially the rural poor, don’t have birth certificates.

Also excluded from the “citizens’ list” created by the Modi government are transgender people.

The Indian government is now building camps to detain people who are stripped of their citizenship. Mass detention of a civilian population, usually based on their ethnic, religious, or other identity, fits the definition of concentration camps.

There are obvious parallels with the U.S. here. The Trump administration’s horrific border policies include detaining children and families in concentration camps, as experts who’ve studied the history of concentration camps agree, regardless of what right-wing apologists say. And The Trump administration is engaged in a legal assault of its own against the basic rights of transgender people and LGBTQ people more broadly.

Then, there’s the Modi and Trump regimes’ deep-seated hatred of Muslims. The U.S. government has gone to the extent of banning people from specific Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. altogether. While courts have upheld this policy on the grounds that its stated intent is to keep out nationals from countries with ties to “terrorism,” Trump’s own statements point to the intent to exclude Muslims from the U.S.

Other parallels between the far-right political projects in India and the U.S. include their ties to extractive industries and their shared objective of criminalizing opposition to extractivism, particularly by Indigenous peoples.

In the United States, a recent investigative news report revealed that oil and gas companies have been lobbying Congress to insert provisions criminalizing protests against fossil fuel infrastructure into a pipeline safety bill. Similar laws are already on the books in states such as Louisiana and North Dakota. Besides being an attack on the right to protest, these laws are outright assaults against Indigenous peoples who have been in the forefront of struggles against fossil fuel infrastructure in the U.S.

These laws are being pushed by the fossil fuel industry — along with regulatory changes rolling back automobile fuel efficiency standards, making it easier for coal power plants to pollute, and more. The U.S. government increasingly acts like a tool of fossil fuel companies and oligarchs.

Similarly, Modi has direct ties with Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, who has benefited from public subsidies and deregulation for his fossil fuel, mining, and other business interests. Adani has also been a vocal supporter of Modi, including when the latter faced scrutiny for his role in covering up an anti-Muslim pogrom when he led the state of Gujarat. Adani’s company has a sordid record of destroying ecosystems and violating Indigenous rights, from Gujarat to Australia.

And like the U.S. government, the Modi government is also criminalizing Indigenous resistance to extractivism by equating it with “terrorism.”

Exploring these parallels isn’t an academic exercise. For cross-border movements for justice to successfully dismantle far-right ethnonationalism backed by fossil fuel and other corporate interests, in the U.S., India, Brazil, and elsewhere, we must start with a shared understanding of the common material and ideological foundations of the global far right. Sharper understanding can make our resistance more effective.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

India Today: “”Don’t Inaugurate Birbhum Coal Block” Rajya Sabha MP Shoots Letter To PM Modi”

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The Conversation <![CDATA[Abiy Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for Freeing Ethiopia’s Dissidents, but Challenges still Await]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186830 2019-10-13T00:58:02Z 2019-10-13T04:01:00Z By Mohammed Girma | –

Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. He becomes the 100th Nobel Peace Prize winner, and the first Ethiopian to receive the accolade.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Abiy is the 12th winner from Africa to be awarded the prize. Last year it was won by medical doctor Denis Mukwege from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Other African winners have included Albert Luthuli, Anwar al-Sadat, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, Kofi Annan, Wangari Maathai, Mohamed ElBaradei, Leymah Gbowee and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet won it in 2015.

Office of the Prime Minister reacts on twitter to the announcement.

The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 under the instructions of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in his will. The Peace Prize is awarded to the person who, in the preceding year, has:

done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

The formal announcement by the Nobel Prize said that Abiy was awarded the prize for:

his important work to promote reconciliation, solidarity and social justice. The prize is also meant to recognise all the stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions…efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea.

But who is Abiy Ahmed? Does he deserve an international accolade? And what of the challenges still facing the country he leads?

Berit Reiss-Andersen, the Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, commented in her announcement speech that:

… many challenges remain unresolved. Ethnic strife continues to escalate, and we have seen troubling examples of this in recent weeks and months.

Unexpected rise to power

Barely two years ago Abiy Ahmed was largely an unknown figure. In early 2017 a couple of YouTube clips started to circulate on social media that showed him gathered with veteran leaders at a party meeting. He came onto the scene with a simple, but powerful, message of togetherness.

At the time he was a political leader at regional and cabinet levels. But he didn’t sound like one. He comes across as remarkably authentic and his approach was distinct. At a time of elevated fear that the nation might head into disintegration, his message soared above the popular anxiety of possible conflict.

Unlike Ethiopian politicians of the past four decades his rhetoric mimicked neither Albanian Marxism nor Maoism. He has anchored his story on local cultural and religious sensibilities.

Delicate course

Abiy’s extraordinary rise to power, as well as his ability to steer a more peaceful political course in Ethiopia, is remarkable given the tensions and complexities of the country’s politics.

He has distanced himself, at least in his political outlook, from his party’s maligned old guard. He has had to steer a delicate course to keep various factions of the political coalition that has ruled Ethiopia for almost three decades – the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – on board. The ruling elites from this party have never tolerated dissent. There have been numerous accusations levelled against them of human rights abuses and the imprisonment of journalists who criticised the regime.

Instead of dismantling the existing system, Abiy opted for internal transformation.

It has taken tremendous courage to break away from a powerful political machine while remaining within the system. But he has stuck to his beliefs, even promoting the notion of “Medemer” – synergy and togetherness – while remaining within the party.

Hopeful times

Abiy inherited a nation that was in political disarray. Hundreds of people had died in three years of anti-government protests.

But shortly after taking office from Hailemariam Desalegn in April 2018, Abiy began to move ahead rapidly with political reforms. He released political prisoners, unfairly incarcerated journalists and activists. He opened the door for political dissidents.

His message was that the country needed to win through bold ideas, not through the barrel of a gun.

He also showed his intention to build institutions. One example was the appointment of the well-known political dissident Birtukan Mideksa as the head the electoral board.

He has also championed the role of women, including in politics. He appointed women in the positions of president, chief justice and press secretary. He also brought their share in his cabinet to 50%.

International diplomacy

But arguably his biggest achievements have been in international diplomacy. Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea share a common culture, language and ways of life. But a decades-long conflict between the two nations has brought immense misery to people who live on the border, and to families split by the fighting.

Abiy brought the conflict with Eritrea to an end. A treaty ended the state of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and declared a new era of peace, friendship and comprehensive cooperation. A lot remains to be done, though.

He also played a crucial role in regional politics. He was key to bringing leaders of Sudan and South Sudan to the negotiating table and helped mediate between Kenya and Somalia in a maritime territory dispute.

His popularity in the region and further abroad is evident when he’s travelling. He’s often greeted more like a rock star than a head of state. But maintaining the same image at home has been more complicated.

Challenges ahead

The Nobel Prize is an acknowledgement of Abiy’s achievements over the past two years. But it doesn’t guarantee his future success.

A case in point is Myanmar’s Aung San Suu kyi. After surviving house arrest, and attacks on her life by the ruling junta, she won the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1991. But her fortunes turned after her party won a national election. It now stands accused of carrying out what the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya Muslims.

There are a great many troubling issues still unresolved in Ethiopia and tense times ahead with an election due next year. Abiy also has many enemies. These include agitators who try to use ethnic fault-lines for their own political ends, powerful ethno-nationalist activists who thrive on division and political entrepreneurs who only see politics as a means of personal enrichment. All are relentlessly working to exploit a fragile situation. Securing the safety of the citizens is the bare minimum he needs to do.

In my view he needs to accept the Nobel Peace Prize as acknowledgement of what he’s achieved, as well as a mandate to champion equality, justice and lasting unity in Ethiopia.The Conversation

Mohammed Girma, Research associate, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

Nobel Peace Prize 2019: Who is Abiy Ahmed? | DW News

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Juan Cole http://juancole.com <![CDATA[Turkey Shells position of US Special Forces in Syria, almost Provokes Firefight]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186822 2019-10-12T04:19:21Z 2019-10-12T04:19:21Z Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Tom O’Connor , James LaPorta AND Naveed Jamali at Newsweek report that the Turkish military subjected a position occupied by between 20 and 100 US special forces personnel embedded with the Kurdish Peoples Protection Units (YPG) to heavy artillery fire.

Turkey has invaded northeast Syria for the purpose of ethnically cleansing the indigenous Kurds to thirty miles deep from the Turkish border.

The fire was so intense that the US military seriously considered firing back, a step that could have provoked an unprecedented firefight between two NATO armies.

The Turkish military was given the positions of US troops “down to the grid level,” and so it is possible that the attack on US personnel was deliberate. Otherwise it is hard to understand why the artillery fire was directed to the very place Turkey knew US troops were stationed.

It could also have been a case of “friendly fire,” an error by one ally in inadvertently hitting the other’s troops.

In the end no US troops were killed or injured, but it was a close call.

At the beginning of last August, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had said that a unilateral Turkish invasion of northeast Syria was “unacceptable” and that the US would “prevent it.”

US officials told the press then that the Turkish plans were attended with extreme dangers for US troops in northern Syria that were embedded with Kurdish forces, which turns out to be a prophetic statement.

On the third day of the Turkish offensive, some 100,000 Kurds had fled from the Turkish border with Syria south about 12 miles to a southern ring of towns and villages.

In the negotiations last summer over what Turkey calls a “safety zone,” the US had insisted that Turkey not come into Syria more that 15 miles, while Turkey demanded to come down at least 30 miles.

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Bonus Video:

VOA: “US Troops Seen at Turkey-Syria Border”

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Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/ <![CDATA[Turkish Military Operation in Syria puts Large Numbers of Civilians at Risk]]> https://www.juancole.com/?p=186820 2019-10-12T02:40:10Z 2019-10-12T04:03:27Z (Human Rights Watch ) – (Beirut) – The Turkish offensive in Northeast Syria points to urgent need for the Turkish Armed Forces, Kurdish-led forces, and all other local armed groups to make protecting civilians and respect for human rights a priority in their operations, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human rights priorities for Turkish forces and Kurdish-led forces, including the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the People’s Protection Units (YPG), should include taking all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties, investigating alleged unlawful strikes, and ensuring that civilians can flee the fighting in safety. All parties that effectively control areas in Northeast Syria should also provide sufficient support to displaced people and ensure that ground troops do not harass, arbitrarily arrest, or mistreat residents who choose to remain. The Turkish offensive has heightened concerns that those most responsible for war crimes or crimes against humanity could escape, including Islamic State (ISIS) members detained in Northeast Syria.

“Turkey and its allies have previously unlawfully killed, arbitrarily arrested, and wrongfully displaced civilians. This military operation risks repeating these abuses unless they take steps now,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director at Human Rights Watch. “Another key concern is that already inhumane conditions for tens of thousands of men, women, and children held in camps and makeshift prisons under the control of Kurdish-led forces could get even worse.”

At least 700,000 of the 1.7 million people in Northeast Syria need humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations. While the extent of the Turkish military operation is not yet known, any major offensive is likely to displace thousands more people, straining a humanitarian response that is already at its limits, Human Rights Watch said.

Close to a half-million people have already been displaced in recent months by hostilities in Northwest Syria. The International Rescue Committee predicts that the new hostilities will displace 300,000 more immediately. Humanitarian groups have told Human Rights Watch that they have been unable to respond to the needs of the displaced and would be hard-pressed to mobilize sufficient resources to respond to any additional displacement.

Turkey had previously announced that it would create a 32-kilometer-wide safe zone in Northeast Syria in response to threats from the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish-led authority in Northeast Syria that the Turkish government describes as a terrorist group. A second stated objective for the safe zone was to relocate there a million Syrian refugees who are in Turkey. However, an October 6 announcement by the US that it is withdrawing troops from Syria was seen by Turkey as greenlighting an offensive on the area, analysts said.

On October 9, news reports quoted a Turkish Security Directorate statement stating that criminal investigations had been initiated against 78 people for “spread[ing] black propaganda against our country regarding Operation Spring of Peace and inciting enmity and hatred, through unsourced and false social media postings intended to destroy the reputation of our security forces.”

The Birgun daily newpaper reported that its website director, Hakan Demir, was detained and released by an Istanbul court with an overseas travel ban pending an investigation. Diken news website reported that its editor, Fatih Gokhan Diler, was also detained.

“The Turkish military operation in Northeast Syria should not be used as a pretext to target democratically elected Kurdish mayors, politicians, and peaceful activists in Turkey itself,” Roth said. “Nor should Turkey target journalists and human rights defenders for critical reporting on the conduct of the military operation.”

Based on its experience in monitoring and documenting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch highlights the following concerns and recommendations:

Avoiding Unlawful Strikes; Minimizing Civilian Casualties

The Turkish Armed Forces should take all feasible measures to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects during military operations. This includes maintaining international standards and procedures designed to prevent civilian casualties, and robustly and transparently reporting airstrikes and enemy and civilian casualties.

This also requires promptly, impartially, and thoroughly investigating instances in which civilian casualties may occur as a result of those operations; and providing compensation for wrongful civilian deaths and injuries and appropriate “condolence” or ex gratia payments for civilian harm.

Human Rights Watch had previously documented several Turkish Armed Forces aerial attacks that caused civilian casualties in their 2018 offensive on the Afrin district in Syria’s Aleppo governorate.

The laws of war strictly prohibit attacks targeting civilians or civilian structures unless they were being used for military purposes, and they prohibit indiscriminate attacks which fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets. Attacks must also be proportionate, meaning that any anticipated civilian casualties or damage to civilian buildings should not be excessive in light of the concrete military advantage anticipated.

Civilians Blocked from Fleeing; Trapped; Restrictions on Aid

All parties to the conflict should ensure that fleeing civilians are safe and have access to humanitarian assistance. They should always ensure the safety and security of humanitarian relief personnel. All parties to the conflict are required to allow civilians to flee ongoing hostilities and to receive aid.

Human Rights Watch has previously documented efforts by all parties to the conflict to block Syrians from fleeing the violence. Turkish border guards have shot at and blocked Syrians attempting to flee violence in other areas of Syria and deported Syrians from Istanbul and other provinces back to areas where hostilities are ongoing.

The Syrian government had also blocked civilians fleeing the Turkish-led military actions in Afrin in 2018 from entering territory under government control, while the armed groups allied with the Democratic Union Party (PYD) had prevented civilians from fleeing and forced them to remain in areas where active hostilities occurred.

Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which has closed its border with Syria to fleeing refugees in the past, should respect the customary international refugee law and international human rights law principle of non-refoulement. That requires them not to push back anyone fleeing threats to their life or freedom or anyone who faces a serious risk of torture or other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment.

The laws of war require all parties to the conflict to take all feasible steps to evacuate civilians from areas of fighting or where fighters are deployed and not block or impede the evacuation of those wishing to leave.

Arbitrary Arrests; Looting; Property Confiscation by Turkish-Backed Factions

Turkey should vet armed groups before assisting them, and monitor their compliance with international humanitarian law, and make clear to them that looting, arbitrary arrests, and mistreatment are unlawful. Turkey should also investigate any credible allegations of abuses by groups on the ground.

Turkey has condemned looting by its allies but has not addressed any other abuses by the armed groups it backs or held them accountable. Turkey is equally responsible for the violations committed by its allies on the ground.

Human Rights Watch has documented that Turkey-backed armed groups in the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have seized, looted, and destroyed the property of Kurdish civilians in the Afrin district of northern Syria. The groups also had taken over residents’ homes and destroyed and looted civilian properties without compensating the owners.

Under the laws of war, pillaging, or forcibly taking private property for personal use is prohibited and can constitute a war crime even in the context of fighting in an area. Combatants are not allowed to seize property for personal use, including to house their own families. The laws of war also prohibit destruction of property not justified by military necessity.

Local activists have also reported hundreds of incidents of abuse by Turkish-backed factions that amount to unlawful arrests, torture, and disappearances. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria found that arbitrary arrests, detention, and pillaging became pervasive throughout Afrin.

Use of Child Soldiers

Despite pledges to stop the practice, the YPG has recruited children, including girls, and used some in hostilities. The YPG should immediately demobilize children in its ranks and stop recruiting children.

International law prohibits non-state armed groups from recruiting anyone under 18, and enlisting children under 15 is a war crime.

Increasing Instability in Post-ISIS Areas

Any authority with effective control over the prison facilities should ensure that detained ISIS suspects are afforded due process and fair trial rights and protected from reprisals and indiscriminate attacks, and that they are kept in prisons equipped for them in line with international best standards. No one should be detained without a legal basis or when detention conditions would amount to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

If Turkey’s ground offensive proceeds, the government should secure any detention facilities that come under its effective control and protect the detainees. It should also make sure that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity are held accountable.

Northeast Syria was also the site of major offensives by the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), which resulted in the deaths and displacement of thousands of people, as well as the destruction of essential infrastructure.

Almost 100,000 women and young children are locked in squalid camps for suspected ISIS family members with insufficient clean water or health care. In addition to Syrians and Iraqis, the detainees in makeshift prisons and camps include men, women, and children from about four dozen other nationalities.

Nearly 340 children died in al-Hol, the largest of the camps, between December and September, according to the International Rescue Committee, most from preventable diseases such as severe diarrhea and malnutrition. Most were under age 5.

On September 30, Medecins San Frontieres reported that at least one female camp detainee was killed and at least three others were wounded when security authorities responded with gunfire to an alleged protest by camp residents. Since then, all medical services have been closed in the al-Hol annex, which holds about 11,000 non-Iraqi foreigners, according to aid workers and detained women.

About 11,000 men and boys as young as 12 suspected of ISIS membership have remained detained in makeshift prisons for months without charge in severely overcrowded prisons under the control of the SDF.

ISIS fighters in Syria have been responsible for a range of abuses, including intentionally bombing civilian targets; mass abductions, including of children; arbitrary detentions; mass executions; unlawful sieges; using child soldiers; and using prohibited weapons.

ISIS subjected people under its control to severe restrictions and punishments including executions of allegedly gay men and stoning people for alleged adultery. ISIS destroyed religious and archaeological sites throughout areas under its control and looted and stole valuable cultural artifacts to help finance its operations.

On October 10, US President Donald Trump tweeted that the US had transferred two high-value British detainees known as the “Beatles” to “a secure location controlled by the US.” The US also reportedly took custody of 38 other high-value prisoners for transfer outside of Northeast Syria. The US should ensure that all prisoners it transfers do not face the risk of torture and can challenge their transfer. For prisoners from the UK and other countries that have abolished the death penalty, such transfers should not take place without effective assurances that the prisoners will not face capital punishment should they be convicted in US federal courts.

Countries whose nationals are held in prisons and camps for ISIS suspects and family members should urgently assist their citizens who want to return home for rehabilitation, reintegration, and, if appropriate, prosecution in line with international standards, or evacuation to third countries where they are not at risk of torture and other inhumane treatment.

Domestic Crackdown on Politicians, Activists in Turkey

In the course of the military incursion on Northeast Syria, Turkey should refrain from arbitrarily targeting Kurdish political activists, politicians, journalists, and dissenting voices in Turkey.

Abusive prosecutions and investigations relying on overly broad and vague terrorism laws and other criminal charges are widely used in Turkey to silence and arbitrarily detain government critics, journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition politicians, Human Rights Watch said.

After Turkey’s January 2018 military incursion into the north Syrian district of Afrin, the Turkish authorities detained and prosecuted hundreds of people for social media posts advocating peace and criticizing the operation.

Turkey’s military incursion into Northeast Syria comes at a time when the Turkish authorities have targeted democratically elected mayors from the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). In August, the Interior Ministry removed from office mayors of three major municipalities of the mainly Kurdish southeast and eastern regions of Turkey and dissolved their local councils, blatantly violating the rights of voters and suspending local democracy in those municipalities. Further detentions of Kurdish political activists and HDP officials followed.

Moves by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government against democratically elected officials and other peaceful government critics violate Turkey’s obligations under international and regional human rights law.

Via Human Rights Watch

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Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

CBS This Morning: “Kurdish civilians in Syria flee onslaught by Turkey”

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