Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Democrats Plan To Target Churches Opposed To LGTB Rights Laid Bare

As those of you who read my rundown last week will know, the Democratic Party formally came out of the closet last week at the CNN LGBTQ Town Hall. They promised everything that was requested and more--Joe Biden almost took a lunge at Anderson Cooper at one point--and made it clear (if it wasn't already) that they have chosen their side in the culture war. 

The gay marriage debate is not about "equal rights" or "tolerance" or anything like that. It is about one side winning, and the other side losing. And in this case, the winners want to crush the losers, and the Democratic Party is eager to help.

This is not a surprise, in some ways. After all, same-sex marriage was only legalized across the US in 2015 and already we've got bakers, photographers, and other professionals being driven out of business, LGBTQ education being installed in schools right across the country, drag queens reading stories to children in public libraries, and transgender 9-year-olds showing up on CNN to wild applause and the warm support of Democrat who should be old enough to know better. 

It bears mentioning that when Christians warned that this sort of thing was inevitable, the LGBT crowd called us liars. That was a tactic on their part, not the truth. They knew they were lying.

Beto O'Rourke is like the kid at the supper table who looks at his parents with innocent eyes and says, right in front of the guests: But I thought you said you hated it when they come over? The fact that it is true does not make it any less embarrassing. READ MORE

Erdogan says he won’t meet Pence, Pompeo on Ankara visit

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he would not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Ankara to discuss Turkey’s military operation in Syria.
“I am standing tall. I will not meet with them,” he told Sky News, referring to Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“They will meet with their counterparts. I will speak when Trump comes,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday, Erdogan said that the only option for Kurdish militants in Syria was to give up the battle and retreat.
“Our proposal is that right now, tonight, all the terrorists lay down their arms, their equipment and everything, destroy all their traps and get out of the safe zone that we have designated,” he said, adding that this would be “the quickest way of solving the problem in Syria.”
Erdogan made the comments in Parliament amid pressure for him to call a ceasefire and halt Turkey’s incursion into Syria, now in its eighth day. Ankara’s assault against Kurdish forces has prompted a chorus of international condemnation.
Erdogan made clear Turkey would not bow to pressure and would press ahead with the military operation until Turkish troops reach a depth of some 30 or 35 kilometers (18 to 21 miles) inside Syria. He also called on the world to support Turkey’s battle against Kurdish groups it considers “terrorists” for their links to an insurgency within its own borders.

Erdogan: We'll never declare a ceasefire in Syria

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told US President Donald Trump on Tuesday night that Turkey will never declare a ceasefire in northeastern Syria and that it will not negotiate with Kurdish forces it is fighting in its offensive into the region, Reuters reported.
Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Baku, Erdogan said the offensive would continue until it reaches its goals, and added that he was not worried about sanctions.
 
“They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We will never declare a ceasefire,” Erdogan declared. “They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions.”
 
Erdogan said he told Trump in a phone call earlier this week that he should send a US delegation to Ankara to discuss their demands and try to reach an agreement. The White House said on Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Erdogan in Ankara on Thursday.
 
Turkish soldiers last Wednesday launched a cross-border assault against Kurdish fighters Turkey sees as terrorists.
 
The operation was launched three days after Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of US forces in northeastern Syria, leading to some accusations that Trump’s move was an authorization for Turkey to invade the region.
 
The Turkish attack is aimed at the US-allied YPG, the key component of the forces who fought Islamic State (ISIS). The group is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to Kurdish separatist insurgents in Turkey.
 
While Trump defended his administration’s plans to withdraw US forces from northern Syria, he also made clear that the US would not allow Turkey to do anything inhumane in Syria.
 
On Monday, the White House announced that Trump will sign an executive order imposing sanctions on Turkey over its invasion of northern Syria.

Ilhan Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib endorse Bernie Sanders

Three of the four members of “The Squad,” the grouping of far-left Democratic freshmen who have stirred excitement and controversy among Democrats and derision among Republicans, are set to endorse Bernie Sanders for president.
 
The Vermont senator, the first Jewish candidate to win presidential nominating contests when he ran in 2016, hinted at the announcement in the debate Tuesday night in this suburb of Columbus.
 
Sanders, 78, was asked by the CNN/New York Times moderators how he would reassure voters that he was up to a run after surviving a recent heart attack.
 
“Let me invite you all to a major rally we’re having in Queens, New York,” he said. “We’re going to have a special guest at that event. And we are going to be mounting a vigorous campaign all over this country. That is how I think I can reassure the American people.”
Before the debate was through news outlets broke the news that the “special guest” at the event Saturday would be the prominent member of the Squad, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
 
Within minutes, another Squad member, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, announced her endorsement and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan was said to be set to announce her endorsement.
 
Omar and Tlaib both endorse the boycott Israel movement; Sanders does not but upholds the right of Americans to boycott Israel. In her announcement, Omar hinted that Sanders’ at times tough criticism of Israel drew her to him. Sanders “truly prioritize human rights in our foreign policy–no matter who violates them.”
 
Omar and Tlaib also have been accused by some Democrats and by Republicans of crossing the line into anti-Semitism. President Donald Trump has said the party is anti-Semitic because of their influence.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Russian warning pauses Turkish Syria operation. US pullback from E. Syria, too, opens door to Iran

The Syrian army’s arrival at embattled Kurdish towns in the north east, backed by Russian threats, seemingly halted the Turkish army’s advance. On Tuesday, Oct. 15, only minor isolated incidents were visible.  Although Turkish President Recep Erdogan boasted on Monday, Day 6, “We will not back down,” he also said, “We are coordinating with the Russians,” and praised their “positive approach.”
 
For now, therefore, the Turkish army looks like sidestepping direct clashes with the Syrian army, which has meanwhile entered Manbij and prevented the Turkish army from moving in. Kurdish forces remain in control there, as well as in the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al Ayn, which Turkish sources on Monday claimed had fallen.
 
On Tuesday morning, it looked as though the Turkish president had paused for reflection before deciding if and how to proceed with his operation, in the light of the Russia/Syrian threat to his forces. He needs to calculate how far he can go against the Syrian army without incurring Russian military intervention. He understands that President Vladimir Putin will not put up with an artillery attack on Russian forces like the one “mistakenly” directed against US troops at the outset of the Turkish drive into northeast Syria last week.
 
President Donald Trump has meanwhile followed up on his order to pull 1,000 US troops out of northern Syria with a second order for their withdrawal from the eastern regions alongside the Syrian-Iraqi border. He said those troops would remain in the Middle East and keep watch on the Syrian arena from a distance. In a phone call to Erdogan, Trump demanded an immediate truce in the hostilities in northern Syria, as US sanctions were announced by the Treasury in Washington on Turkey’s war leaders, the defense and energy ministries as well as ministers of defense, energy and interior. Trump also raised by 50pc the tariffs on imported Turkish steel and halted negotiations for a $100bn trade agreement.
 
The US president has delayed, but never wavered from, his resolve to pull the US military presence out of Syria. In July 2018, he withdrew US support from Syrian insurgent groups in southern Syria and handed control of their regions to Russian and Syrian forces. Israel collaborated with Trump’s moves by lifting its control of the areas adjoining the Golan and allowing them to revert to the Assad regime along with the Syrian rebel groups with whom Israel had collaborated during the war.
 
Trump’s actions in October 2019, for transferring control of northern and eastern Syria to Russian-backed Syrian government forces, are therefore part of the same consistent policy.
Early Tuesday, US sources in Washington revealed that US forces would remain at one last Syrian location, the large garrison at Al Tanf which commands the key intersection of the Syrian, Jordanian and Iraqi borders.

From Israel’s perspective, the Trump administration’s decision to pull back from eastern Syrian positions – from which US forces were able to keep the Iranian presence tied down to one place, Abu Kamal – opens most of the Syrian-Iraqi border for Iran, Hizballah and the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, which are already in control of the Iraqi side of the border, to gain free passage into Syria..  

US said considering plan to remove nukes from Turkish base near Syrian border

US officials met in recent days to review plans to remove some 50 nuclear weapons housed under American control at the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey amid growing tensions with Ankara, the New York Times reported Monday.
US President Donald Trump said Monday he would issue new sanctions against Turkey, halting trade negotiations and raising steel tariffs, in an effort to pressure Ankara to stop its ongoing offensive attack in Syria against Kurdish forces.
While the Pentagon does not discuss where it stores nuclear assets, the B61 gravity bombs are believed to be kept at Incirlik as a deterrent to Russia and to demonstrate America’s commitment to NATO, the 28-member military alliance that includes Turkey.
Two officials told the paper that State and Energy Department officials were quietly examining ways to remove the tactical nukes, with one official saying they were effectively hostage to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. READ MORE 

Trump sending Pence to Turkey to ‘pursue a ceasefire and negotiated settlement’

WASHINGTON (AFP)  — US President Donald Trump on Monday urged his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “stop the invasion” of Syria, Vice President Mike Pence said.
Trump pressed the Turkish leader in a telephone call to “stop the invasion, to enact an immediate ceasefire and to begin negotiations with Kurdish forces in Syria,” Pence told reporters, adding that he would be traveling urgently to Turkey at the president’s request.
“He’s directed me to lead a delegation. I will be leaving as quickly as possible to travel into the region to pursue a ceasefire and negotiated settlement,” Pence said.
Pence said the president is “very concerned about instability in the region” and denied that Trump gave Turkey the green light to launch the invasion when he announced a troop pullout.
Pence said the US is “simply not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any longer.”
The United States slapped sanctions on Turkey on Monday as it demanded an end to its deadly incursion against Syrian Kurdish fighters, accusing its NATO partner of putting civilians at risk and allowing the release of Islamic State extremists. READ MORE

Trump to impose sanctions over Turkish action in Syria

US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order imposing sanctions on Turkey over Ankara's invasion of northern Syria, the White House announced Monday.
The official statement by President Trump follows:
 
I will soon be issuing an Executive Order authorizing the imposition of sanctions against current and former officials of the Government of Turkey and any persons contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria. Likewise, the steel tariffs will be increased back up to 50 percent, the level prior to reduction in May. The United States will also immediately stop negotiations, being led by the Department of Commerce, with respect to a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey.
 
This Order will enable the United States to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria. The Order will authorize a broad range of consequences, including financial sanctions, the blocking of property, and barring entry into the United States.
 
Since my first day in office, the Trump Administration has worked tirelessly to preserve the safety and security of the United States and its citizens. The United States and our partners have liberated 100 percent of ISIS’s ruthless territorial caliphate. Turkey must not put these gains in jeopardy. Turkey must also prioritize the protection of civilians, particularly vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities in northeast Syria. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians, destruction of civilian infrastructure, and targeting of ethnic or religious minorities is unacceptable. Additionally, the return of refugees must be conducted in a safe, voluntary, and dignified manner.
 
Turkey’s military offensive is endangering civilians, and threatening peace, security, and stability in the region. I have been perfectly clear with President Erdogan: Turkey’s action is precipitating a humanitarian crisis and setting conditions for possible war crimes. Turkey must ensure the safety of civilians, including religious and ethnic minorities, and is now, or may be in the future, responsible for the ongoing detention of ISIS terrorists in the region. Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion.
 
As I have said, I am withdrawing the remaining United States service members from northeast Syria. As United States forces have defeated the ISIS physical caliphate, United States troops coming out of Syria will now redeploy and remain in the region to monitor the situation and prevent a repeat of 2014, when the neglected threat of ISIS raged across Syria and Iraq. A small footprint of United States forces will remain at At Tanf Garrison in southern Syria to continue to disrupt remnants of ISIS.
 
The United States will aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate, and finance these heinous acts in Syria. I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Task of stopping Turkey passes from Trump to Putin. Syrian army defends threatened Kurdish towns

President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops back from the Turkish-Kurdish confrontation on Sunday, Oct.13 produced a lightning realignment of big power strength on the battlefield of NE Syria: the task of protecting the Kurds from the excesses of the Turkish operation passed to Vladimir Putin and the Syrian army. By Monday, Syrian government forces had reached the Kurdish-held towns of Kobani, Manbij and Raqqa as Turkish troops were poised to move in against the first two. According to some reports, the Syrian army was already inside those towns, but, say DEBKAfile’s military sources, it can’t hold out against a Turkish advance without Russian support.

The wheels for this turnabout, as DEBKAfile predicted on Saturday, were set in motion by a deal struck by the Kurdish leaders of the US-backed Syrian Defense Forces (SDF) with Assad regime officials at the Russian command center in the Khmeimim air base near Latakia. Their meetings were chaired by Russian officers. Feeling abandoned by the US pullback, the Kurds quickly agreed to relinquish their struggle for an independent state and settle for autonomous status for their northeastern provinces in return for the Syrian army taking over the defense of their endangered towns.

The deal, which took effect within 24 hours, still has rough edges to be smoothed out, such as:
  1. The exact nature of Kurdish autonomous rule and relations with central government in Damascus.
  2. The borders of Kurdish-ruled lands.
  3. The fate of the SDF.
  4. How far will Russian President Vladimir Putin be willing to push back against Turkish President Recep Erdogan for halting his army’s advance into northern Syria.
Trump ordered American troops in northern Syria to move east, out of the way of a potential clash over the Kurdish regions, up to the areas adjoining the Iraqi border. Already now, since the Syrian government is not up to a full-scale battle with the Turkish army without Russian army and air force support, Turkey and Russian stand at the threshold of a major military clash.
How Putin handles this standoff is open to question. He may be able to resolve it by giving Erdogan a quiet ultimatum to back off or face direct hostilities with the Russian army.

Meanwhile, the Russian leader comes out of the mess created by the Turkish operation having attained the overriding goal of his intervention in the Syrian conflict: to bring all parts of the country under the central rule of the Assad regime.

Most immediately, he must halt the flight of thousands of Islamist State fighters from camps in Kurdish territory in the wake of the turmoil. At least 1,000 have so far escaped, raising concerns of an ISIS resurgence.

Trump’s transfer of the Syrian mess to Putin is compatible with his avowed goal: to start withdrawing American forces from Syria after the Islamic State’s defeat.

Syrian army moves to confront Turkish forces as US withdraws

Syrian regime forces moved towards the Turkish border Monday after Damascus reached a deal with beleaguered Kurdish forces following a withdrawal announcement by the United States, AFP correspondents reported.
Soldiers waving Syrian flags deployed west of Tal Tamr, not far from the flashpoint border town of Ras al-Ain, which has been a key target of Turkish forces and their proxies since they launched their onslaught six days ago.
Tal Tamr is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the border but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some units in the area had moved as close as six kilometers (four miles).
AFP correspondents said the government forces were met by cheering residents and Syrian state television aired footage of people welcoming the soldiers.
SANA did not say from which area the Syrian army had moved into the town.
Tal Tamr is a predominantly Assyrian Christian town that was once held by IS before it was retaken by Kurdish-led forces. Many Syrian Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Syria’s pre-war population of 23 million, left for Europe over the past 20 years, with the flight gathering speed since the country’s conflict began in March 2011.
Syria’s state news agency later said government forces entered the northern town of Tabqa and its air base that carries the same name, as well as several other villages on the southern parts of Raqqa province.
Tabqa was previously a stronghold of the Islamic State jihadist group, and is on the road to the city of Raqqa, which was IS’ de facto capital, until it lost both in 2017. READ MORE

Khamenei: Prepare against the 'enemies'

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday urged the country’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) to prepare against the "enemies".
 
The IRGC should continue inventing and building modern and advanced military hardware, Khamenei said, according to the Xinhua news agency.
 
"You must have all necessary defense, operational and intelligence equipment. However, these instruments must be manufactured and developed at home and meet all the needs of the country on the ground, in the sky and space as well as at sea and borders. Even the cyberspace is among the necessary instruments," he said.
 
The IRGC needs to "keep moving forward in tactical and strategic strengths, operate with constant alertness and readiness, and avoid even a moment of neglect," added Khamenei.
Tensions between the US and Iran have increased since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last May. He later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.
 
Iran, in turn, has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal.
 
A commander in the IRGC recently declared that US regional bases and its aircraft carriers in the Gulf are within the range of Iranian missiles and warned, “Our missiles will destroy their aircraft carriers if they make a mistake.”

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Turkey is short of military strength to achieve Erdogan’s ambitious goals in Syria

The Turkish push into northeastern Syria started with the aim of conquering three border towns, Ras al-Ayn, Tel Abyad and Ain al Issa, held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). By Saturday, Oct. 12, Day 4, that triple object proved beyond the Turkish army’s strength without bringing in substantial foot and armored reinforcements and incurring many casualties, say DEBKAfile’s military sources. Turkey therefore decided to start with two targets, grabbing the outskirts of Ras al-Ayn and sections of the key M4 highway near Ain al Issa. (On Saturday afternoon, Turkish sources claimed that the town had fallen.) If Ras al-Ayn was really in their hands, which other sources deny, Turkish troops would be able to surround and overwhelm the SDF force defending the town of Kobani.
 
To prevent this happening, the US last week sent a small Marine force to take up position in the northeast town of Kobani and on the hill overlooking the M4. On Friday, this force came under Turkish artillery fire, which caused no harm. Turkey claimed it was “a mistake,” which is hard to believe since the Turkish officers have detailed maps of the locations of US forces in the region. At all events, by Saturday, M4 had not been captured by the Turks.
 
The tactic employed by the Turkish high command, given the small number of troops provided for Recep Edrogan’s Peace Spring Operation, is to aim for an important local victory in one sector, before moving on. The SDF have, in contrast, opened up five separate fronts on the Syrian-Turkish border and were shelling Turkish border villages and towns. There have been scores of casualties on both sides, and tens of thousands of refugees fleeing affected locations, but none of the various figures published are credible.

The Turkish-Kurdish contest has so far refrained from more than exploratory skirmishes, say DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources. The coming days will reveal whether it is likely to develop into a long-term confrontation. Some 140,000 well-armed SDF Kurdish fighters are dug in along a 300km front east of the River Euphrates. They have set up a defense line which is heavily fortified and barricaded, studded with anti-tank traps and supplied with plentiful ammo stores.
 
The Turkish force in Syria are present is too small to tackle this Kurdish force. To raise an army equal to the task of smashing the Kurds, Turkey would need a large-scale military call-up, and even then, might be short of manpower for the task. The Turks are further constrained by the refusal of both the US and Russia to allow their air force to operate in northern Syrian air space, thereby hobbling their ability to advance very far across the Euphrates.

Erdogan’s operation has been severely limited by Washington and Moscow to establishing a 200km-long, 30km-deep, safe zone along a section of the Syrian-Turkish border, from which most SDF forces were withdrawn last September. This was agreed in a phone conversation President Donald Trump held with Erdogan last Saturday, Oct. 5.
 
But the Turkish president has a more ambitious plan. He wants to make it impossible for Syria’s Kurds to establish an autonomous state. That objective is still way out of Ankara’s reach. Even its initial foray is hedged around by restrictions and deadlines. Turkey’s generals have no more than four or five days to achieve their first objective, before US lawmakers endorse sanctions against Erdogan, his generals and the Turkish economy. Pressure is ramping up on President Trump, including from his own Republican Party, to stop the Turkish operation in Syria.

Another date looming is Nov. 13, when Trump and Erdogan have scheduled a meeting.
In the coming weeks, too, the process may be kicked off for Syrian President Bashar Assad and SDF leaders to conclude a military pact that opens the door for Syrian military forces to enter Kurdish territory. Initial contacts to prepare these negotiations are underway. President Vladimir Putin is all in favor of any steps that restore the Assad regime’s authority to all parts of country.
 
These and other events yet to come take some of the steam out of the Turkish ruler’s belligerent threats and the Kurds’ cries of an imminent slaughter, (which also serve Binyamin Netanyahu’s rivals as campaign fodder for drawing a straight line from Donald Trump’s putative desertion of the Syrian Kurds and Israel’s low expectations from his friend in the White House).
 
As matters stand now, there are no signs of an imminent Kurdish collapse in the early stages of the Turkish thrust into northeast Syria. They are well prepared for war with the Turkish army and, armed with good stocks of US-supplied weapons, are pursuing the correct tactics for meeting the current threat.