Archive for April, 2017


by Loaa Adel

Apr 9, 2017

Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Belgium has withdrawn its fighter jets, which are participating in the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq, after being accused of massacring civilians in western Mosul.

Belgian Ministry of Defense revealed that it issued a final decree to withdraw its jets from the international coalition against the Islamic State terrorist group.

Belgian Minister of Defense Steven Vandeput declared that that the withdrawal came after accusing Belgian air force of bombing al-Mosul al-Jadida neighborhood, in western Mosul, killing hundreds of civilians, mostly women and children, while indicated that his country ordered a probe into the incident.

Meanwhile, the government of Belgium, on Saturday, suspended air force operations above Syria in response to the U.S. cruise missile attack Friday morning that led Russia to end its U.S. – Russian security coordination. The U.S.-led coalition continues operations, but for the time being without Belgian participation above Syria, according to NSNBC News.

Vandeput also hinted at the fact that the Belgian government doesn’t believes the risk of a direct confrontation between Russian and NATO air forces in Syria is too high when he said “The international coalition looks day by day how the situation evolves. … If the coalition says it’s safe enough and asks us to continue the missions, we will do that.”

Source: Iraqi News.

Link: http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/belgium-withdraws-jets-coalition-isis/.

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April 08, 2017

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The United States is vowing to keep up the pressure on Syria after the intense nighttime wave of missile strikes from U.S. ships, despite the prospect of escalating Russian ill will that could further inflame one of the world’s most vexing conflicts.

Standing firm, the Trump administration on Friday signaled new sanctions would soon follow the missile attack, and the Pentagon was even probing whether Russia itself was involved in the chemical weapons assault that compelled President Donald Trump to action. The attack against a Syrian air base was the first U.S. assault against the government of President Bashar Assad.

Much of the international community rallied behind Trump’s decision to fire the cruise missiles in reaction to this week’s chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of men, women and children in Syria. But a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that the strikes dealt “a significant blow” to relations between Moscow and Washington.

At the United Nations, Russia’s deputy ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, strongly criticized what he called the U.S. “flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression” whose “consequences for regional and international security could be extremely serious.” He called the Assad government a main force against terrorism and said it deserved the presumption of innocence in the chemical weapons attack.

U.S. officials blame Moscow for propping up Assad. “The world is waiting for the Russian government to act responsibly in Syria,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said during an emergency Security Council session. “The world is waiting for Russia to reconsider its misplaced alliance with Bashar Assad.”

Haley said the U.S. was prepared to take further action in Syria but hoped it wouldn’t be necessary. The official Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman complimented Trump in a telephone conversation for his “courageous decision.”

Saudi Arabia, one of the most vehement opponents of Assad, said the missile barrage was the right response to “the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it.”

In Florida with the president, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional economic sanctions on Syria were being prepared. Thursday night’s strikes — some 60 cruise missiles fired from two ships in the Mediterranean — were the culmination of a rapid, three-day transformation for Trump, who has long opposed deeper U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war. Advisers said he was outraged by heartbreaking images of young children who were among the dozens killed in the chemical attack.

The decision undercut another campaign promise for Trump: his pledge to try to warm relations with Moscow. After months of allegations of ties between his election campaign and the Kremlin — the subject of current congressional and FBI investigations — Trump has found himself clashing with Putin.

On Friday, senior U.S. military officials were looking more closely at possible Russian involvement in the poison attack. Officials said a drone belonging to either Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site after the assault earlier this week. The drone returned late in the day as citizens were going to a nearby hospital for treatment. Shortly afterward, officials say the hospital was targeted.

The officials, who insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive matter, said they believe the hospital attack may have been an effort to cover up evidence of the earlier assault. White House officials caution that Trump is not preparing to plunge the U.S. deeper into Syria. Spokesman Sean Spicer said the missile attack sent a clear message to Assad, but he avoided explicitly calling for the Syrian to leave office.

The impact of the strikes was also unclear. Despite intense international pressure, Assad has clung to power since a civil war broke out in his country six years ago, helped by financial and military support from both Russia and Iran. Russian military personnel and aircraft are embedded with Syria’s, and Iranian troops and paramilitary forces are also on the ground helping Assad fight the array of opposition groups hoping to topple him.

Trump spent Friday in Florida, in private meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. officials noted that the timing of the strike had the possible added benefit of signaling to China that Trump is willing to make good on his threat to act alone to stop North Korea’s nuclear pursuits if Beijing doesn’t exert more pressure on Pyongyang.

The missile strikes hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off. Trump’s decision to strike Syria won widespread praise from other nations. Not everyone was cheering in Washington, where the president’s decision to act without congressional authority angered a mix of libertarian Republicans, Democrats and the far right.

Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Vivian Salama in Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

April 08, 2017

STAVANGER, Norway (AP) — Norway and Turkey — NATO’s northern and southern frontiers in Europe — have been pillars of the Western military alliance for more than 60 years. But the diplomatic temperature between the two has fallen steadily since Turkey recalled dozens of military officers as suspects in an aborted coup — and Norway became the first nation to grant some of them asylum.

The government in Oslo agreed last month to protect four Turkish officers who had been assigned to NATO and, like colleagues in Germany and Brussels, fear they could be imprisoned as terrorists if they go back to their country. Turkey’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Norwegian ambassador for an explanation while the officers remain in Stavanger, a city on Norway’s west coast that lies 3,800 kilometers (2,360 miles) from Ankara.

“We see that this is a difficult decision for Norway because of the alliance, and it can cause big problems for NATO, so we appreciate that they have put human rights over political decisions,” one of the officers given asylum said. “Norway still says you are innocent until proven guilty … in Turkey, you have to prove your innocence.”

The men trying to forge new lives in Stavanger are among a cadre of commissioned Turkish officers who were working at NATO facilities around Europe during Turkey’s July 15 thwarted coup. The Turkish government suspects of playing a role in the failed coup, and the men have asked not to be named for fear of reprisals against their families in Turkey.

“Some of my colleagues in other NATO headquarters did return to Turkey. They were detained at the airport in front of their families, their children. It would be very difficult to go back to Turkey now,” one senior officer said. “We have small kids, and we have to save their lives.”

The former officers bristle at being branded “traitors.” Each man was on leave when the plot unfolded and claims he has a firm alibi. With their bank accounts frozen, their successful military careers suddenly cut short and hopes for fair trials in Turkey shattered, they say they had no choice but to seek asylum in Norway, where they filed for protection between August 13 and October 19.

One of the men was fired by telephone. Another received a call ordering him to leave Norway within three days. Two watched in horror as their names appeared on “blacklists” of soldiers commanded back to Turkey.

“When I saw the list and my name in the list, I tried to understand the reason … but there was nothing about this on the paper. There were just one or two or three sentences calling us back,” one said. “It was a terrible period. I knew I would lose my rights, my past, my family, everything.”

The men say they have seen social media videos of other Turkish officers being tortured in jail and have desperately tried to reach military friends back home. They say some have disappeared, while others were forced into giving confessions.

“After the coup, 160 generals and 7,000 military officers have been arrested,” one of the officers said bitterly. “If these persons were involved in this coup, the result must have been different.” The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alleges that the coup was carried out by followers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies orchestrating a takeover. More than 150,000 people have been taken into custody, fired or forced to retire from Turkey’s armed forces, judiciary, education system and other public institutions since the coup attempt.

Even Gulenists who did not take part in the coup attempt are considered a serious security threat now and are being purged from Turkey’s military. The four former officers in Norway deny being Gulen supporters and think the government is using the coup as an excuse to crush its critics.

“We are hearing that people’s wives are accused of being plotters and traitors. If one of your relatives has money in a certain bank, or you were using certain social media on the day of the coup, you are accused of being involved,” one said.

Turkey responded angrily to Norway granting the officers asylum, protesting that a NATO ally offered the men “support to abuse the country’s political, social and economic opportunities” instead of ensuring their return to Turkey.

The men’s lawyer, Kjell Brygfjeld, thinks the four cases were fast-tracked through the sometimes clogged Norwegian asylum system. One of the former officers said his asylum petition was approved without his needing to provide documents proving he was in danger.

“Norway can see what is going on,” he said. As political refugees, they face the possibility of never returning to Turkey and uncertain futures in NATO’s northern outpost. Dressed in the casual cold-weather wear of Norwegian civilians during an early spring evening on the Stavanger fjord, the four officers joked that they’ve already embraced a Nordic lifestyle.

And even though the winter nights seem long in Norway, they know that their situations could have been much darker. “It’s impossible for me to disconnect from Turkey,” one of the officers said. “All of my friends — most of the friends are now in jail. And their families suffer because of this. And there is just one voice in Turkey, so no one hears their screams.”

David Keyton contributed to this report in Stavanger.

24 December 2016 Saturday

Turkish authorities said Saturday that 220 seriously injured Aleppan civilians have been treated in Turkey following the evacuation of the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo.

The injured civilians were taken from the opposition-held city of Idlib to waiting ambulances at the Turkish border crossing of Cilvegozu, the Turkish Prime Ministry Directorate General of Press and Information told Anadolu Agency.

The figure of 220 Aleppans includes 93 injured children.

Thirty-one have been discharged following treatment.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182188/more-than-200-injured-aleppans-treated-in-turkey.

24 December 2016 Saturday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday that Turkey will never allow the formation of a new state in northern Syria.

“We will never allow the founding of this kind of state,” despite efforts to do so, Erdogan told Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) in Istanbul.

Erdogan also reiterated Turkey’s wish to see a “terror-free safe zone” in northern Syria for the safety of its southeastern border provinces.

“We have been saying this from the beginning. If this [issue] isn’t dealt with, Gaziantep is always hanging by a thread, Kilis is always hanging by a thread, Sanliurfa is hanging by a thread,” he added, mentioning three border provinces.

Later, at the opening of a governmental complex, Erdogan spoke on the Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces in northern Syria backed by the Turkish army.

“The Free Syrian Army is the epitome of moderate opposition in Syria,” he said. “It has nothing to do with [being a] terrorist organization, but it is precisely a resistance movement. They are trying to save their territory.”

On the completion of the evacuation of civilians and opposition fighters from war-battered eastern Aleppo, Erdogan said: “We have saved our 45,000 brothers from Aleppo … We can bring them to our territories if necessary.”

Separately, meeting with women entrepreneurs in Istanbul, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim stressed the goals of Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria.

“Our aim in being there is ensuring the safety of life and property of our citizens who live along our southern borders,” said Yildirim, adding that Turkey has long wanted to block the danger coming from northern Syria.

Separately, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli spoke on Turkey’s current Al-Bab operation as part of Operation Euphrates Shield.

“Operation Euphrates Shield should definitely be crowned with victory,” Bahceli said at MHP headquarters in Ankara.

“If we emerged empty-handed from Al-Bab, we would endanger Diyarbakir and Ankara. Al-Bab should collapse around the hellhounds, and they should all perish.”

The Turkish army is supporting Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters’ efforts to liberate Al-Bab from ISIL, a strategic city for the terrorist group.

The Turkish army is currently active in northern Syria under Operation Euphrates Shield, which began in late August to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along Turkey’s border using FSA fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets.

Since the launch of Operation Euphrates Shield, Turkish explosive ordnance disposal teams have neutralized 2,208 handmade explosives and 42 mines in areas rid of ISIL.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/182157/turkey-will-never-allow-a-new-state-in-nsyria-erdogan.

December 20, 2016

Mohamed Zahed Gul

With the return of terrorist explosions to the streets of Turkey and the targeting of security officers and innocent civilians alike in Istanbul, there are suggestions that that someone is taking aim at the country’s security. The next target will be the Turkish economy via politic means. In short, the goal is clearly not just to kill security personnel and civilians, but the implementation of a plan targeting Turkey as a whole. The parties behind this plan make no distinction between the state and the government. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) may be in charge but it is not really accepted by democratic states, and it is, after all, the people who elected the parliament, government and prime minister.

Why is Turkey being targeted in this way? It has been facing many challenges over the course of the past three years or so, beginning with the environmental protests in Taksim Square, which were transformed into political protests that attempted to bring down the ruling AKP, unsuccessfully. Soon after, the AKP was targeted in both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2013, 2014 and 2015, in which the people stood by the party despite the best efforts of those who are against democracy in Turkey. The voters backed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against many opposition parties in coalition with the Gülenist movement and in spite of all the US and European voices trying to discredit the AKP.

None of the failures to hijack the elections prevented Turkey’s enemies from trying to change the political course of the country through a military coup in July. The failure of the takeover attempt has not deterred them from trying to impose regime change. Now, though, the efforts are focused on trying to damage the economy. The US and Europe have scared off foreign investors making it difficult for Turkey to recover, even as an attack on the Turkish Lira saw its value plummet. Nevertheless, the attempts to bring the country down through an economic coup have also failed. Erdogan encouraged the people to buy more liras and gold and not to invest in other currencies. He pointed out that the targets are the Turkish people themselves and they responded in an uncompromising and admirable way.

Such a popular and government response shows that the majority of the people are aware that the battle is with Western states which would like Turkey to remain at the mercy of their decisions both economically and politically, rather than be valued military partners within NATO. This sort of situation was accepted by previous Turkish governments throughout the 20th century, when the country was in need of the West for economic, military and political support. Although its predecessors in government may have agreed for Turkey to be a tool in the hands of the West, the AKP does not share this political philosophy, hence the Western response to induce a power shift in Turkey. The evidence for this includes the numerous attempts to bring Erdogan down.

The main struggle now is for Turkey to retain its right to make its own independent political decisions. The fight is not Erdogan’s, despite the role that America is playing in Turkey, or whether the interference comes from political parties, the Gülen movement, Daesh or terrorists affiliated with the PKK, all of whom have some connection to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The cooperation between these groups helps America and European countries which have targeted Turkey without exposing themselves as blatant enemies of the state. Documents from Wikileaks, however, showed that in 2014 Hillary Clinton met with four former US ambassadors to Ankara and allegedly stated her concerns over Turkey’s slow but sure adoption of Islamist principles and the need for several steps to be taken in order to protect US national interests.

In another set of US deliberations, Clinton also said that the problem with Turkey is the way in which Erdogan is seen within the Turkey-US relationship, as well as the manner in which he himself views the same relationship.

Clinton allegedly stated that, “America needs Turkey more than Turkey needs America.” American analysts apparently believe that work must be done to foster sentiments that oppose those promoted by Erdogan. Among the steps suggested are internal operations such as the military coup, carried out by allies of the US within Turkey, including domestic organisations, even if this threatens the stability of Turkey and leads to its division.

Suspicions about Western sincerity when condemning the Istanbul bombings on 10 December, which killed 38 innocent civilians and wounded dozens of others, arose because the West condemned the attacks but not the organisations which carried them out. White House spokesperson Ned Price said that the US stands in complete solidarity with Turkey, its NATO ally, and condemns terrorist action that threatens the stability of Ankara or Washington. However, he did not condemn the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is believed to have carried out the attacks. In the past, Turkey has condemned those who have attacked the US and placed them on the terrorist watch list. Why has the US not done the same for Turkey? It is perhaps more pertinent is to ask why the US is still arming and funding these terrorist groups. If they claim to represent the Kurdish people in Turkey, they are also guilty of exploiting wars in the region.

An analysis of such aggression against Turkey, including the latest military coup attempt, could prove that the US is implementing its plan for the dissolution and division of the Republic of Turkey. The US is using these terrorist political organisations and the pro-coup groups to achieve its objective. Washington has done the same thing in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and other places, and believes that its plan for Turkey will also succeed. It has found allies in Turkish groups that have the same aims, but do they not see that they are merely playing the role of traitors and US stooges? Do their members and supporters know that they are acting on behalf of the enemies of Turkey? The US-led invasion in 2003 did not lead to peace, stability and freedom for Iraq, so why would America’s efforts give the Turks anything other than death and destruction?

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20161220-is-americas-goal-the-division-of-turkey/.

December 20, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish officials have inaugurated an undersea highway tunnel linking the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. The Eurasia Tunnel, crossing the Bosporus Strait, was launched Tuesday even as the country was stunned by the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey a day before.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s decision not to cancel the launch was its “response to terror.” He says “we cannot allow terrorism to take control of our agenda.” The 5.4-kilometer (3.4-mile) twin-deck tunnel is aimed at relieving congestion in the city. Officials say 120,000 vehicles a day are expected to use the tunnel.

Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead Monday in Ankara by a Turkish policeman who shouted slogans about the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo as he killed the envoy.

December 17, 2016

ISTANBUL (AP) — Thirteen Turkish troops were killed and 48 others wounded in a car bomb attack in the central Anatolian province of Kayseri on Saturday morning, the Turkish military reported. In a statement, the Turkish armed forces said the car bomb went off at 8:45 a.m. and targeted on-leave military personnel from the Kayseri Commando Brigade.

The wounded were rushed to hospitals in the region. The army said civilians may have also been casualties of the “treacherous attack.” State-run Anadolu Agency said the car bomb went off at an entrance gate of Erciyes University, hitting a public transportation bus that included on-leave soldiers among its passengers.

Speaking about the Kayseri explosion, Vice Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak said in remarks broadcast on NTV that “treacherous factions” had taken aim at commandos from the Kayseri Airforce Brigade, who had been “training exclusively for the safety of our people.”

Turkey’s prime ministry office imposed a temporary blackout on coverage of the explosion and urged media to refrain from publishing anything that may cause “fear in the public, panic and disorder and which may serve the aims of terrorist organizations.”

Turkey is facing renewed conflict with Kurdish rebels in the southeast and has suffered a string of suicide and car bombing attacks this year. The blast comes a week after a car bomb struck riot police posted outside a soccer stadium in Istanbul following a match. That attack killed 44 people, mostly police officers, and wounded scores others. Kurdish militants claimed the Istanbul attack.

Turkey is a member of NATO and partner in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, which has been blamed for multiple attacks in Turkey.

Ayse Wieting, Bulut Emiroglu and Neyran Elden in Istanbul also contributed reporting.

February 07, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber struck an entrance to Afghanistan’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, killing at least 19 people in the latest in a series of attacks on the country’s judiciary. The attacker was on foot, and targeted a side door as court employees and other people were exiting the building in downtown Kabul, the Interior Ministry said. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said 41 people were wounded, including 10 in critical condition.

No one immediately claimed the attack, which bore the hallmarks of the Taliban. The insurgents have been at war with the U.S.-backed government for 15 years and have increasingly targeted the judiciary since the execution of six convicted insurgents last May.

Shortly after the executions, a suicide bomber targeted a minibus carrying court employees in Kabul during the morning rush hour, killing 11 people in an attack claimed by the Taliban, which called it an act of revenge.

In June, three Taliban fighters stormed a court building in the eastern Logar province, killing seven people, including a newly appointed chief prosecutor, before being shot dead by police. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the Supreme Court attack, which he blamed on the “enemies of our people.” The U.S. Embassy in Kabul called it “an attack on the very foundation of Afghan democracy and rule of law.”

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed a top district official in the western Farah province as he returned home from a mosque, local police spokesman Iqbal Baher said. The Taliban claimed the attack.

January 11, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban say they did not plant the bomb in southern Afghanistan that wounded the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador and other diplomats the day before. They issued a short statement on Wednesday, blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse that killed five people and wounded 12.

The Taliban claimed attacks earlier on Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens. The Taliban have denied some attacks in the past — attacks that diplomats and security forces later attributed to the group.

Tuesday’s Kandahar assault wounded Gov. Homayun Azizia, as well as UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and what Emirati officials described as “a number of Emirati diplomats.” Emirati officials did not respond to a request for comment.