Trump, Syria, Al-Qaeda, United States Democrats


This 16 October 2019 video from United States Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is about her contribution to the Democratic party presidential candidates‘ debate in Ohio; focusing on the war in Syria.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

A rare moment of truth on the US support for Al Qaeda

17 October 2019

There was a rare moment of truth during Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate. Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq war veteran, said that while Trump had Kurdish blood on his hands, “so do many of the politicians in our country from both parties who have supported this ongoing regime-change war in Syria that started in 2011, along with many in the mainstream media, who have been championing and cheerleading this regime-change war.”

This was directed not only against the Obama-Biden administration, which began the US covert intervention in Syria, but against the New York Times and CNN, the co-sponsors of the debate, who have been among the most strident in denouncing Trump’s order to withdraw from Syria. (See The Democrats support the “Forever War” )

Gabbard continued, “As president, I will end these regime-change wars by doing two things, ending the draconian sanctions that are really a modern-day siege, the likes of which we are seeing Saudi Arabia wage against Yemen, that have caused tens of thousands of Syrian civilians to die and to starve, and I would make sure that we stop supporting terrorists like Al Qaeda in Syria who have been the ground force in this ongoing regime-change war.”

This remarkable admission that American imperialism was allied in Syria with Al Qaeda—the supposed main enemy in the “war on terror” now nearly 20 years old—was passed over in silence by the three media “moderators”, two from CNN and one from the Times, and by the other eleven candidates.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a military intelligence veteran of the Afghanistan war, tried to rebut Gabbard’s claim that Syria was a US-backed “regime-change” war. He reiterated the conventional presentation of the war as a struggle to defend civilians from the brutality of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, while not acknowledging that Washington and its allies among the Gulf sheikdoms had funneled money, weapons and Islamist gunmen for years in an effort to put a stooge regime into power in Damascus.

Gabbard responded, “So, really, what you’re saying, Mayor Pete, is that you would continue to support having U.S. troops in Syria for an indefinite period of time to continue this regime-change war that has caused so many refugees to flee Syria, that you would continue to have our country involved in a war that has undermined our national security, you would continue this policy of the U.S. actually providing arms in support to terrorist groups in Syria, like Al Qaeda, HTS, al-Nusra and others, because they are the ones who have been the ground force in this regime change war? That’s really what you’re saying?”

Buttigieg had no answer on the facts, merely declaring that Gabbard was advocating the same policy in Syria as Donald Trump. As for the corporate media, there was virtually no mention of Gabbard’s charge of a US-Al Qaeda alliance in Syria, and no attempt to refute it. Even to discuss that connection would call into question the entire foreign policy of American imperialism in the Middle East.

Gabbard is neither a pacifist nor an opponent of imperialism, but a serving military officer in the Army Reserve who did two tours of duty in Iraq, including in 2005 at the height of the war, and took several weeks off from the campaign in August for a unit training exercise in Indonesia—part of the US preparations for a future war with China.

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Trump’s ‘ceasefire’ OKs Erdogan invasion of Syria


This 12 October 2019 video says about itself:

Protesters across the world condemn Erdoğan‘s invasion of northeastern Syria

Thousands of Kurdish residents of Qamishli and Tal Abyad protested against the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. Solidarity protests with Kurds, and against the Turkish invasion were also organized in the UK, Germany, Spain and other countries. Protesters condemned the offensive as yet another attempt by Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan to suppress the struggles of Kurdish people.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US claims “ceasefire” deal in Turkey’s invasion of Syria

18 October 2019

The Trump administration claimed Thursday that it had achieved a major diplomatic victory by negotiating a “cease-fire” in the eight day old Turkish offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria. The US president had himself green-lighted the invasion in an October 6 phone call with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and then pulled back US Special Forces troops deployed on the Syrian-Turkish border to facilitate the operation.

Announced at a press conference convened by US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the US embassy in Ankara, the existence of a “cease-fire” was immediately denied by Turkish officials, who asserted that they would never reach such a deal with “terrorist” forces. Ankara regards the YPG, which served as the Pentagon’s main proxy ground forces in the so-called war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as a branch of the PKK, the Kurdish separatist movement in Turkey, against which it has waged a brutal counterinsurgency campaign for the past three decades.

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a 13-point “Joint Turkey US Statement on Northeast Syria” Thursday afternoon. Nowhere does the document mention a cease-fire, instead stating that Turkey will “pause” its offensive in Syria for 120 hours “to allow the withdrawal of the YPG”. Once the Kurdish militia is driven from the Syrian-Turkish border—the principal objective of the Turkish invasion—the military campaign dubbed Operation Peace Spring will be halted, according to the terms of the agreement.

The document begins by affirming the status of the US and Turkey as NATO allies and goes on to declare Washington’s understanding of Ankara’s “legitimate security concerns on Turkey’s southern border” and to affirm a commitment to “protecting NATO territories and NATO populations against all threats.”

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, said after the meeting between Erdogan and the US officials, “We got what we wanted … This means that the US has approved the legitimacy of our operations and aims.”

The deal also promises that no new US sanctions will be imposed against Turkey, and that existing sanctions will be lifted once the military operations in Syria are brought to a halt.

The invasion by the Turkish army has killed several hundred and sent at least 200,000 Syrian Kurds fleeing south for their lives. Atrocities have been attributed to Turkish-backed Islamist militias, drawn from the same Al Qaeda-linked forces that were previously armed and funded by the CIA in the regime change war against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Preening before the cameras in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump described the deal with Turkey—which amounted to Washington’s ceding to all of Ankara’s demands—as historic, “something they’ve been trying to get for 10 years, everybody, and they couldn’t get it.” He asserted that “millions of lives” had been saved, as if the shaky pause in the fighting on Syria’s northern border meant an end to the country’s eight year old conflict. He credited the deal to his “unconventional” approach and “rough love.”

In a rare statement of truth, Trump blamed the Obama administration for having “lost more than half a million lives in a very short period in the same region” during the protracted regime change operation launched in 2011.

The day before the Pence-Erdogan meeting in Ankara, Trump had told a White House press conference that the fighting on the Turkish-Syrian border had “nothing to do with us” and was “not our problem”. He referred dismissively to the YPG, which suffered some 11,000 casualties in the US intervention in Syria, suggesting that they were mercenaries who were “paid a lot of money to fight”, adding that they were “no angels”.

In response to growing bipartisan criticism, the White House also released an October 9 letter to Erdogan in which Trump warned the Turkish president that he would be seen as a “devil” if Turkey continued its offensive, while telling him “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Turkish officials reported that Erdogan threw the letter in the trash and responded by stepping up the military assault in Syria.

The joint statement issued Thursday declares US-Turkish agreement on the establishment of a “safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey”, adding that this zone will be “primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation.”

The statement gives no precise definition of the “safe zone”, nor spells out what role the US will play in its imposition. Pence told the press conference in Ankara that it would extend roughly 20 miles south of the Turkish-Syrian border but gave no indication of what length of the border it would cover. The Erdogan government has indicated its intention to occupy a 200-mile strip covering all of northeastern Syria from the Euphrates River to the Syrian border with Iraq.

Ankara has long advocated the creation of a “safe zone” inside the Syrian border, both to break up the semi-autonomous region carved out by the Kurds, and to create an area for the training and arming of Islamist militias in order to escalate the bloody sectarian civil war launched with the purpose of overthrowing Assad.

And to deport Syrian refugees in Turkey (who are not from north east Syria) to.

Erdogan has also stated his intention to send millions of Syrian Sunni Arab refugees from Turkey into the “zone”, an exercise in ethnic cleansing against the Kurds.

The demand for such a “zone” has been echoed by US Republicans like the late Senator John McCain, as well as Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, who made it part of her 2016 presidential platform. Both supported it as a means of prosecuting the war for regime change in Syria.

The US-Turkish proposal for carving out a “safe zone” is further complicated by the deployment of Syrian government troops along with Russian military units, which have moved into the cities of Kobane and Manbij, taking over bases abandoned by the US Special Forces that Trump ordered to withdraw. Syrian government troops have also moved into Raqqa, the former “capital” of ISIS which was decimated by US airstrikes.

The Kurdish militia forces announced on Sunday that they had invited the Syrian government and Russian forces to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of US troops in order to protect the population from the Turkish invasion. According to some reports, YPG militiamen in the border areas have integrated themselves into the government forces.

While Pence claimed at the press conference in Ankara that the Erdogan government had agreed not to engage in any military action in the Syrian city of Kobane, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu directly contradicted the US vice president, saying, “We did not make any promises about Kobane,” and that the issue would be discussed with Russia. …

While condemning the “betrayal” of the Pentagon’s erstwhile Kurdish proxy forces, the principal concern among politicians of both big business parties is that Trump has ceded ground in the Middle East to both Russia and Iran.

Faced with mounting political crisis, as well as intensification of the class struggle and social tensions within the United States, the threat of an escalation of US militarism in the region will intensify, regardless of the deal struck in Ankara. The danger is that the increasingly complex conflicts on the Syrian-Turkish border can erupt into a wider war, dragging in the entire region as well as the world’s two major nuclear powers, the US and Russia.

Fighting continued in northeastern Turkey in the wake of an agreement struck Thursday between US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. At least 14 civilians were reported killed Friday in air strikes and shelling near the bitterly contested Syrian border town of Ras Al-Ain: here.

Kurdish Dutch, Swedes against Erdogan invading Syria


This 12 October 2019 video is about Kurdish Swedish people demonstrating in Gothenburg, Sweden against the Turkish Erdogan regime invading Syria.

This 12 October 2019 video is about Kurdish Dutch demonstrating in The Hague against Erdogan invading Syria.

20,000 on London’s streets say ‘Stop the Turkish invasion’. ‘Rise up for Rojava’ rally opposes Erdogan’s brutal war on Syria’s Kurds: here.

World Peace Council condemns Turkish invasion of Syria: here.

Turkey’s Syrian “rebel” allies, the Islamist Syrian National Army (SNA, formerly the Free Syrian Army), are executing Kurdish civilians in areas they hold, according to multiple reports. Kurdish politician Hevrin Khalaf was executed; her bullet-riddled car appeared in a video surrounded by SNA fighters. Beyond Al Qaeda-linked calls to destroy infidels, the British Daily Telegraph noted, the SNA’s main outlook “is sectarian: they are anti-Kurdish and they are Arab chauvinists” … The Kurdish-led SDF militias in Syria, vastly outgunned by Turkish forces and vulnerable to air strikes, warned US officials in talks leaked by CNN that they would appeal for Russia to attack Turkey and protect SDF and Syrian army forces. As Turkey is legally a NATO ally of Washington and the European powers, such an attack could compel the United States and its European allies to either break the 70-year-old NATO alliance or go to war with Russia to protect Turkey: here.

DEBACLE: HUNDREDS OF ISIS SUPPORTERS ESCAPE Turkish forces approached a key Kurdish-held town in northern Syria, setting off clashes that allowed hundreds of Islamic State supporters to escape from a camp for displaced people and prompted U.S. soldiers to withdraw from a nearby base. [AP]

FIGHTING IN SYRIA HAS ALREADY DISPLACED 130,000 More than 130,000 people have been displaced from rural areas around the northeast Syrian border towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al Ain as a result of fighting between Turkish-led forces and Kurdish militia, the United Nations said. [Reuters]

Kurdish Dutch people on war in Syria


Syrian families fleeing the Turkish invasion, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV, 11 September 2019:

We asked Dutch people with a Kurdish or Turkish background how they view it [Erdogan’s invasion of Syria].

The Kurdish-Dutch film maker Beri Shalmashi fears a genocide. “Erdogan has announced an attack for which he will receive support from the United States of America, which has given him a free hand.” …

She thinks the Kurds are “almost silly” that they relied on equal cooperation with the US Americans in the fight against ISIS. “You can almost call them disposable heroes. If it comes in handy, then everyone likes to work with them. When they have finished, they are on their own again.”

Used

The Kurdish-Dutch PhD student Yusuf Çelik recognizes the pattern. “The Kurds are almost getting used to being abandoned. There is a saying among the Kurds: ‘the mountains are our only friends’, that applies now.”

Shalmashi and Çelik think that yesterday’s threat by Erdogan to open the gate to the EU for refugees will not be without effect. “It seems that Europe [rather, European Union politicians] is more afraid that refugees are coming our way than of people being killed“, says Shalmashi. …

[Turkish Dutch Cemil] Yilmaz hopes that this “wicked war” will end soon. “People are used as pawns in a sad geopolitical game.”

Demonstration against Erdogan invading Syria, The Hague


Dutch-Kurdish demonstrators arriving in The Hague today, NOS photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Kurdish Dutch people gather in The Hague to demonstrate against the Turkish attack in Northeast Syria. …

The demonstration starts in front of The Hague Central Station, after which the demonstrators will march to the Malieveld.

The campaigners have Kurdish flags with them. Some also carry flags of the Kurdish armed groups YPG and PKK. The latter organization is seen by … [many NATO] countries, including the Netherlands, as a terror group because of attacks in the struggle against the Turkish authorities.

It is not illegal to carry a PKK flag in the Netherlands. The public prosecuting service says it is “a difficult matter”. “The pursuit of a Kurdish state is not illegal. Their ultimate goal is not a state in which committing violence is part of the state’s ideas. That is why we believe that showing the flag is not automatically punishable”.

Offensive in Syria

Turkey launched an offensive on Wednesday in Northeast Syria, an area where many Syrian Kurds live. By Turkish bombing, both civilian casualties and fighters of the YPG militia died. Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist organization because of their ties with the PKK.

The YPG … fought against the Islamic State [ISIS] in Syria. The Kurds feel betrayed by the US Americans since President Trump announced the withdrawal of US soldiers from northeastern Syria. In doing so, the US paved the way for Turkish President Erdogan to invade the Kurdish region.

Erdogan attacks Syrian Kurds, Trump OKs


This 9 October 2019 video says about itself:

Italy: Kurds rally in Rome against Turkey’s operation in northeastern Syria

Members of the Italian Kurdish diaspora took to the streets of Rome on Wednesday to demonstrate against Turkey’s military offensive in northeastern Syria. Footage shows protesters waving flags and chanting … slogans.

“Now the international coalition is silent. The international coalition, especially the US, especially Trump, has given the green light to Turkey to do massacre and ethnic cleansing,” said a member of Kurdistan’s parliament at the rally.

By Alex Lantier:

Turkey launches US-backed offensive targeting Kurdish forces in Syria

10 October 2019

After Washington on Sunday withdrew its protection of Kurdish nationalist militias who previously had been the main NATO proxy force in the Syrian war, Turkish forces launched their attack across the Turkish-Syrian border at the Kurdish forces yesterday. In the afternoon, air raids and artillery bombardments hit cities and military and civilian targets along approximately 100 kilometers of the border, stretching from Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ain. Early this morning, the Turkish Defense Ministry announced it had hit 181 targets in the first day of its invasion of northern Syria.

Reports of civilian casualties and damage to civilian installations mounted as Turkish warplanes and heavy shelling hit military installations, cities and the surroundings of the strategic Bouzra dam, which provides water to hundreds of thousands of people in northern Syria. Two civilians were killed, and two others injured in a Turkish airstrike on the village of Misharrafa, west of Ras al-Ain. There was also heavy damage to civilian homes in the village of Sikarkah, in the Qamishli area.

CNN journalists on the ground reported scenes of terror as civilians tried to escape Turkish shelling: “Chaotic scenes are unfolding now, with roads choked with fleeing families, motorcycles piled with five to six people, mattresses strapped to cars. Smoke can be seen rising from at least one area, which appears to be on fire. People don’t know where they will go, where they will sleep tonight, or what they can expect from this Turkish operation.”

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) militia, which had worked closely with US and European special forces until this weekend, pledged to “clash against the Turks to stop them from crossing the border” and “use all our possibilities against US aggression.” The SDF reportedly is calling on its forces from across the region of northeastern Syria that it holds to march rapidly on the Turkish-Syrian border to try to repel the Turkish invasion.

Late last night, however, the Turkish Defense Ministry confirmed that its ground forces had invaded regions of Syria held by the SDF after the initial artillery barrages. It tweeted, “The Turkish Armed Forces and the [Turkish puppet] Syrian National Army have launched the land operation into the east of the Euphrates river as part of the Operation Peace Spring.”

Dutch NOS TV writes today (translated):

The Turkish police are going to crack down on people who turn against the military operation in Northern Syria on social media. 78 people are being prosecuted for this, police reported Wednesday evening. It is not clear whether they were also imprisoned.

… The suspects can face years of imprisonment if they are convicted.

The Alex Lantier article continues:

The principal responsibility for the bloody onslaught mounted by Turkey lies with Washington and its European imperialist allies, who ever since the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq have waged decades of war in the Middle East, including the proxy war for regime change in Syria launched in 2011.

Trump, who double-crossed NATO’s Kurdish proxies by giving the green light to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the attack, bears direct responsibility for its consequences. However, the entire political establishment in the United States and in Europe is directly implicated in the bloody attack set into motion by Trump’s Sunday phone call to Erdoğan, in which he withdrew guarantees of protection to the Kurdish militias. Attempts by the European and American ruling elites to distance themselves from this invasion reek of hypocrisy.

Statements rained in from across Europe yesterday criticizing the Turkish offensive. After British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Trump, Downing Street issued a statement declaring Britain’s “serious concern at Turkey’s invasion of northeast Syria and the risk of humanitarian catastrophe in the region.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is traveling to Turkey to speak to Erdoğan, called on Turkey to “act with restraint.”

Not really credible, Mr Stoltenberg; with your long history of support for Erdogan invading Syria.

Perhaps the most repulsive statement came from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Though he has played a central role in the French state’s extrajudicial targeted assassination program and is close to Egypt’s bloodstained dictator General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Le Drian claimed to be morally outraged by the Turkish army’s bloodshed. “I condemn the unilateral operation launched by Turkey in Syria,” he tweeted, adding that it threatened the “security and humanitarian efforts” of the NATO powers against terrorist groups in Syria.

… These statements reek of hypocrisy. Not only does the NATO powers’ eight-year proxy war in Syria have nothing to do with “humanitarian efforts”, but they have no need to rely on “what has been reported” when formulating their policy on the Turkish attack. This is because they were working closely with the Turkish government as it launched its bloody offensive against the NATO powers’ Kurdish “allies” in Syria.

Yesterday afternoon in Turkey, envoys of the United States, Russia, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, NATO … went to the Turkish Foreign Ministry for briefings on the upcoming attack.

The offensive then began at 4 p.m. local time, as Erdoğan announced the attack on Twitter. He tweeted: “Our Turkish Armed Forces with Syrian National Army has started Operation Peace Spring against the PKK/YPG … terrorist organizations, in northern Syria. Our aim is to wipe out the terror corridor, trying to be implemented in our southern border, and bring peace and security to the region.” …

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is arriving today in Turkey for talks with Erdoğan from Italy where he met with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, endorsed the invasion. Claiming that Turkey has “legitimate security concerns” about Syria, he said: “I am ensured that any action it may take in northern Syria is proportionate and measured.”

Amid a growing outcry against the Turkish invasion of Syria, as calls spread internationally for protests outside Turkish consulates, top US officials backtracked, distancing themselves from the offensive. After Trump called the attack a “bad idea”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied US responsibility for the Turkish attack. “The United States didn’t give Turkey a green light” for the offensive, he lied. At the same time, Pompeo echoed Stoltenberg’s claim that Ankara has a “legitimate security concern” to justify bombing the Kurds.

Meanwhile, Trump said that he did not really care about Kurds, as Kurds had not helped in the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy.

TRUMP: THE KURDS DIDN’T HELP US IN WWII President Donald Trump defended his controversial decision to yank support for U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters by noting that the Kurds didn’t help the U.S. during World War II and the invasion of Normandy, known as D-Day. [HuffPost]

Though Trump often whitewashes nazis, his evolution towards fascism is apparently not yet gone as far as in British Conservative weekly The Spectator. The Spectator praised Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht armed forces during the Normandy invasion.

If Trump’s conservatism would have become Spectator-like, then he would say that Hitler was the good guy, and the Allies the bad guys, in Normandy 1944; and then, he would not mind Kurds not helping the ‘bad’ allies.

GIULIANI ‘URGED TRUMP TO EXPEL TURKISH CLERIC’ Rudy Giuliani repeatedly urged Trump in 2017 to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, to Turkey — a move that would have fulfilled a top priority of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. [HuffPost]

Trump’s decision to abandon US security guarantees to the Syrian Kurdish militias and effectively green-light a Turkish invasion of Syria is proving to have catastrophic consequences. But it is the final product of decades of wars waged by successive US governments, including when Washington was ruled by Trump’s Democratic critics, and their European imperialist allies. The 1991 Gulf War in Iraq and the 2001 NATO invasion of Afghanistan began decades of Middle East wars that have claimed millions of lives, turned tens of millions into refugees, and devastated entire societies.

The Democratic Obama administration in Washington launched the Syrian war in 2011 with the support of Berlin, London, Paris and the other European imperialist powers. Initially they relied on Al Qaeda-linked militias carrying out car bombings and attacks as the spearhead of their war against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. It was only when these Islamist militias were defeated, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia turned on the US puppet regime in Iraq in 2014, that Washington turned to Kurdish-led militias as its principal proxy force in Syria.

Only a few years after the Kurdish nationalists emerged as the main US proxy force in Syria, Washington has sacrificed it to the latest zigzag in its Middle East policy, tacking closer to the Turkish government—which violently opposes Kurdish nationalism both in Syria and Turkey itself.