Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Today's Links

1-- More fabrications from the Intel chiefs--Russia Sees Midterm Elections as Chance to Sow Fresh Discord, Intelligence Chiefs Warn

Intel chiefs double-down on the "Big Lie"--We're still waiting for proof  o yeah, and watch those bots!

The Russians have a strategy that goes well beyond what is happening in the United States,” he said. “While they have historically tried to do these types of things, clearly in 2016 they upped their game. They took advantage, a sophisticated advantage of social media. They are doing that not only in the United States but doing it throughout Europe and perhaps elsewhere.”

2-- Tillerson in Turkey--An Ottoman slap??

Tensions have risen between Turkey and the U.S. over Washington’s support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK).

Turkey launched its “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to remove YPG militants from Syria’s northwestern Afrin district.
The dispute has come to a head over the Syrian town of Manbij, where Turkey has vowed to drive out a YPG-led force, warning the U.S. - which has troops stationed there - not to get in the way.
Turkey will turn its attention to Manbij, which lies approximately 100 kilometers east of Afrin, “as soon as possible,” the Turkish government has said. But Washington says it has no plans to withdraw its soldiers from Manbij, and two U.S. commanders visited the town last week to reinforce that message.

Speaking in parliament on Feb. 13, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed the U.S.’s continued cooperation with the YPG and a senior U.S. military official who vowed to respond to any Turkish attack in Manbij, which Turkey sees as its next target to remove the YPG from.

“It is clear that those who say ‘we will respond aggressively if you hit us’ have never experienced an Ottoman slap,” Erdoğan told his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies in parliament.
“We will destroy every terrorist we have seen, starting with the ones standing by their side. Then they will understand that it is better for them to not to stand alongside the terrorists,” Erdoğan said.

3-- US intel report presented to Congress says YPG is ‘PKK’s Syrian militia,’ searching for autonomy

An official report prepared by U.S. National Security Director Daniel Coats and presented to the U.S. Congress on Feb. 13 defined the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as the Syrian wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), acknowledging that it is searching for autonomy.

“The Kurdish People’s Protection Units - the Syrian militia of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) - probably will seek some form of autonomy but will face resistance from Russia, Iran, and Turkey,” read the report titled “Worldwide Threat Assessment.”

The report’s Europe section also mentioned strained ties between the U.S. and Turkey and made predictions on the future of the row.

“Turkey’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States against ISIS is likely to continue, but thwarting Kurdish regional ambitions will be a foreign policy priority [for Ankara],” the report said, referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

On Syria, the report warned that “Russia and Iran are planning for a long-term presence, securing military basing rights and contracts for reconstruction and oil and gas exploitation.”
It also argued that “Iran is seeking to establish a land corridor from Iran through Syria to Lebanon.”
Turkey has long criticized the U.S. support provided to the YPG in northern Syria, saying it presents a threat to the Turkish national security for a PKK-linked group to gain authority on its southern borders.

Pentagon dismisses border force plan
Meanwhile, the U.S. dismissed reports that the Pentagon is seeking $250 million to train and equip the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to build a “border security force” in Syria, amid an angry reaction from Turkey.

The Pentagon requested $300 million for Syrian “train and equip activities” and $250 million for border security requirements.

“The Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year 2019 request for Counter-[ISIL] Train and Equip Fund includes funding for border security. This funding is intended to enhance the border security of nations adjacent to conflict areas, to include Jordan and Lebanon, to prevent the spread of ISIL,” Pentagon Spokesman Adrian Rankine-Galloway said on Feb. 13.

The border security funding will not be used for training or equipping of internal Syrian security forces, to include Vetted Syrian Opposition forces, Galloway stressed.
This funding is not for a new “army” or conventional “border guard” force, according to the Pentagon official.

4-- The US and Turkey: Finding a way or making one

On Feb. 11, U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster was in Istanbul to talk to Erdoğan’s Foreign and Security Policy Adviser İbrahim Kalın, in an attempt to address the rift between Ankara and Washington. That rift has particularly grown recently because of the U.S. collaboration in Syria with a militant group that Turkey designates as a terrorist organization. Despite a joint statement underlining that Turkey and the U.S. are NATO allies, the strength of statements coming from the Turkish side after the visit indicated that Ankara was not at all satisfied by what McMaster told Kalın.

The first reaction came from government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ, who demanded that the U.S. stop trying to convince Turkey to bow to the U.S. line in Syria and first deliver on earlier promises.
Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu then said relations with the U.S. will “either get better” after Tillerson’s visit “or get much worse.” Then Erdoğan said on Jan. 13 that Americans who threaten Turkey (in reference to two U.S. generals who spoke alongside militants in Syria’s Manbij) “must have never heard about the ‘Ottoman slap.’” He again warned that U.S. officers should stay clear of People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants because Turkish forces would soon be shooting at those militants.

5-- US and Turkey: Allies or foes?

Ankara and Washington do not see eye to eye on the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD). Ankara is particularly annoyed at the weapons, ammunition, and military training that the U.S. has been providing to the PYD and its military wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The U.S., meanwhile, accuses Turkey of sidelining, if not totally undermining, the fight against ISIL by turning its focus to eliminating the PYD.

Ankara wants the U.S. to immediately stop providing arms and weapons systems to the PYD. It also demands that the U.S. takes back the weapons systems it has so far provided to the PYD. For Ankara, the PYD is nothing more than the Syrian extension of the PKK, (as was recently underlined in an official intelligence report submitted to the U.S. Congress)....

No one can dispute the U.S.’s determined fight against terrorism in the Middle East. But can a NATO ally intentionally provide arms and ammunition to an outlawed group knowing that such resources would most probably be used to attack an ally? Rockets landing in Turkish border towns are reported to be mostly American-made. Put the boot on the other foot: Would Americans be happy to see their sons murdered by Turkey-made arms? Can anyone blame Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu for recently saying Ankara has “lost confidence” in the U.S. and now wants to see “action on the ground” rather than promises.

6--Syria's War Has Never Been More International

7--Editors of NYT throw support behind police state Intel chiefs

The phalanx of intelligence chiefs who testified on Capitol Hill delivered a chilling message: Not only did Russia interfere in the 2016 election, it is already meddling in the 2018 election by using a digital strategy to exacerbate the country’s political and social divisions.

No one knows more about the threats to the United States than these six officials, so when they all agree, it would be derelict to ignore their concerns. Yet President Trump continues to refuse to even acknowledge the malevolent Russian role.

It’s particularly striking that four of the men who gave this warning to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday — the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo; the director of national intelligence, Dan Coats; the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray; and the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley — were all appointed by Mr. Trump.

They testified that the president has never asked them to take measures to combat Russian interference and protect democratic processes....

Nevertheless, absent Mr. Trump’s commitment, there can be no robust mobilization to take all measures needed to confront an insidious problem that strikes at the heart of the democratic system. These would include a comprehensive and well-funded plan for protecting critical infrastructure, countering cyberattacks and mitigating propaganda...

why is Mr. Trump still ignoring such conclusions? Some have said he is giving Russia a green light to tamper with the 2018 elections. That would have once been an absurd suggestion. It can no longer be dismissed out of hand.

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