Great Maneuvers around Syria, Turkey and the Kurds

Russia, Turkey and Iran sign memorandum on de-escalation zones in Syria

Russia, Turkey and Iran have signed a memorandum on setting up de-escalation zones in Syria during the talks in Astana, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said on Thursday.
“During the past two days, the participants in the Astana talks reviewed the implementation of the ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities agreements,” he said speaking at a plenary session of the international meeting on resolving the Syrian crisis.

US-led coalition warplanes banned from Syria safe zones – Russian envoy

The four safe zones to be established in Syria will be closed for flights by US-led coalition warplanes, said the Russian envoy to the Astana peace talks, where the zones were agreed upon.

“As for [the coalition] actions in the de-escalation zones, starting from now those zones are closed for their flights,” Aleksandr Levrentyev told journalists in the Kazakh capital.


Astana Considers Recent Round of Talks to Be Major Step Toward Peace in Syria

Kazakhstan considers the outcome of the fourth round of talks on Syria in Astana, held earlier this week, to be a significant step toward peace in the country, a press service of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said Friday.
“Kazakhstan considers the outcome of the fourth international meeting on Syria in Astana as another significant step toward establishing peace in the country, it calls on the parties [of the conflict] to implement all agreements and confirms its readiness to further continue to contribute to international efforts aimed at searching for different ways of political settlement of the Syrian conflict, in particular as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,” the statement read.


Erdogan remains vulnerable despite power grab

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan began his first 100 days last week as head of Turkey’s new regime by reverting to membership in the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP). He is now set to be re-elected as chairman on the 21st of this month.
Once this happens he will no longer be the theoretical president of all the Turks but, in practice, president of the AKP’s conservative, devout constituency constituting half the populace. This is certain to further alienate the already alienated liberal, secular 50 per cent of Turks.

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Erdogan vows to recapture all lands once held by the Ottoman Empire - and more


NATO ally tests Trump: Turkey threatens to strike U.S. forces partnered with Kurds

The war of words between Washington and Ankara over the U.S. military’s partnership with Kurdish paramilitaries in Syria escalated Wednesday, when a senior aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested American troops could be targeted alongside their Kurdish allies in the country’s ongoing air war against the militias.
Senior presidential aide Ilnur Cevik said U.S. forces who are teamed up with members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, were in danger of being hit by Turkish fighters patrolling the volatile border region with Syria.


The Russia-Turkey-U.S. tussle to save Syria will still get very messy

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pushing aggressively for a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict — and he seems to have found common cause with Turkey and the United States, two countries that were firmly opposed to Russia’s Middle East agenda not too long ago.
On Wednesday, Putin hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi. For more than half a decade, Erdogan has clamored loudly for the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch Moscow ally whose regime has essentially subcontracted its bombing campaigns to the Russian air force. Just over a year ago, Putin was accusing Turkey of abetting the Islamic State, while Turkish forces shot down a Russian jet.


Fear and Loathing in Turkey

Shortly after the failed coup attempt of July 16, 2016 in Turkey, I received a frantic text message from a lifelong friend, Lale Kemal. Lale is a prominent freelance journalist with an impeccable 37-year record of non-partisan reporting and analysis. She is an internationally known expert on Turkish civil-military relations, having written for Jane’s Defense Weekly since 1991. Now, Lale texted from Ankara, she was under arrest for her columns in Zaman, which, until its court-ordered seizure four months before the putsch and its closure soon thereafter, was one of the highest-circulation daily newspapers in Turkey.


Analysis: ISIS and the US warning to Turkey against attacking Syrian Kurds

BySeth J. Frantzman
An Islamic State attack at dawn on Tuesday killed some two-dozen people in a Syrian town on the Iraqi border. Many of the victims were refugees who were fleeing ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria on their way to Kurdish-held Hasakah, Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces told reporters.
The SDF and US soldiers who support them are in the midst of an offensive to take Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital, and have recently made significant gains against the extremists in Tabqah. However, recent attacks by Turkey against Kurdish areas in Syria have threatened to distract attention from the offensive against ISIS.

Turkey in ‘final phase’ of secretive Saudi export deal

Turkey’s defense and procurement officials are expecting to finalize a large defense export contract with Saudi Arabia, but its contents will be kept top secret.
Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik has said the defense export contract with Saudi Arabia will be the largest-ever single export deal for the Turkish industry.
A senior procurement official refused to comment on the content: “It is too early to reveal what the contract would entail.” But he confirmed that “negotiations with the Saudis are in their final phase now.”

In Turkey, a Battle Between Press Freedom and the Cult of Erdogan

It was Kadri Gursel’s task to take ten-year-old Erdem to the basketball court, while his wife Nazire Gursel, a dance enthusiast herself, cherished taking him to waltz classes. Now, she does both. She has been forced into being a single parent after her husband’s arrest six months ago.

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Iran's Khamenei blames Gulf Arab states for military parade attack

“A ten-year-old student in my son’s school said his father is in prison so we can be free.” Alone but glowing with pride, Nazire talks about her journalist husband’s incarceration and what it means for Turkey. “Kadri wrote for Cumhuriyat, the last independent paper left in Turkey. People deserve to know the truth.” Gursel is a renowned columnist with the liberal Turkish daily Cumhuriyat (pronounced as “Jamhuriyat”), which means “The Republic” in Turkish.


Cartoonists and Journalists Jailed in Turkey Need Our Help

Since the attack at Charlie Hebdo magazine’s office in Paris in January 2015 cartoonists have in many ways become emblematic of the struggle to defend the inalienable right to freedom of expression.
Cartoonists’ stock in trade is to satirize, mock and even to insult the ideas and values of others. As such, they will be among the first to feel the ire of those parts of society who are most sensitive, sometimes with good reason, as might be the case with minority groups. However if those in power are overly thin-skinned, cartoonists can find themselves in danger. Often they have been described as “canaries in the coal mine”, meaning if you live in a country where cartoonists can lampoon the government without interruption, you may rest assured of your good fortune to live in a (relatively) healthy democracy. If they have been censured then that may be taken as the first symptom of a deeper problem. Such was the case with Turkey, its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan and celebrated cartoonist Musa Kart.

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Compte à rebours de la guerre contre l’Iran


Judge Rips ‘Disingenuous’ Rudy Giuliani in Iran Sanctions Case

A federal judge called Rudy Giuliani’s statements about his work in an Iran sanctions case “disingenuous” at a hearing Tuesday, criticizing the ex-New York City mayor for omitting any mention of Iran altogether.
Giuliani and former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey are working on behalf of a Turkish gold trader accused of helping Iran circumvent U.S. sanctions related to its nuclear program. In affidavits filed last month, Giuliani and Mukasey said they were working on extrajudicial resolutions for Reza Zarrab’s legal troubles. Instead of appearing in court, Giuliani and Mukasey said they have met with high-ranking officials in Turkey and the U.S.—including Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—to work towards a diplomatic resolution.