Erdogan hints at military action against YPG

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the Belt and Road Forum at the China National Convention Center (CNCC) in Beijing, in this photo taken on May 14, 2017. (AP)
Updated 19 May 2017
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Erdogan hints at military action against YPG

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hinted at possible retaliation against the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in a speech to Turkish business group TUSIAD on Thursday,.
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization affiliated to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.
Erdogan said during his meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House, he notified him that Turkey would “exercise its rights under the rules of engagement” without consulting anyone.
“We are facing a picture where terrorist organizations are constantly supported, strengthened and are confronting us. Turkey is not a country that will consent to such treatment,” Erdogan said.
Turkey refuses to take part in the anti-Daesh coalition’s impending Raqqa operation if the YPG participates.
The US considers the group a reliable and strong partner on the ground in its anti-Daesh efforts.
Last year, Turkey carried out Operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria against Daesh and the YPG. Erdogan said Turkey would not hesitate to conduct similar operations when necessary.
Galip Dalay, senior associate fellow on Turkey and Kurdish affairs at Al-Jazeera Center for Studies, and research director at Al-Sharq Forum, told Arab News that if Erdogan carries out this threat, it will likely undermine the stability of the Raqqa operation.
But Dalay said he does not expect a sustained military operation similar to Euphrates Shield to be undertaken in other parts of Syria.
“The conditions aren’t in place for such an operation. We might witness some short-lived cross-border firing or operations. The symbolic significance will be higher than the real military or geopolitical impact,” Dalay said.
Dalay added that the US will try its best to defuse tensions between the YPG and Turkey.
“I don’t think we’ll witness the kind of fighting between Turkey and the YPG that occurred between Turkey and Daesh during Operation Euphrates Shield, because any clash with the YPG would lead to full-fledged battles on many fronts such as Turkey, Syria and Iraq,” Dalay said.
“I sensed some toning down in Erdogan’s discourse on the YPG when he said Turkey will react if the YPG targets Turkey,” Dalay added. “That means a reactive response rather than a proactive assault on the YPG.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the US provided Turkey with guarantees that heavy weapons given to the YPG will only be used to liberate Raqqa from Daesh, not against Turkey under any circumstances.
Experts expect military action in Shingal, a PKK-occupied town in northern Iraq near the Turkish border.
Last month, Turkish warplanes carried out a wave of airstrikes against Kurdish positions in Iraq and northern Syria.
The YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga in Iraq, which are part of the anti-Daesh coalition, said their forces were targeted in the strikes.
“Such an operation (in Shingal) will probably have the blessing of the US and the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party), maybe not that overtly,” Dalay said.


Videos: Iran protesters confront police at parliament

Updated 7 min 26 sec ago
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Videos: Iran protesters confront police at parliament

DUBAI: Protesters angered by Iran’s cratering economy confronted police in front of parliament on Monday, with security forces firing tear gas at them, according to online videos, the first such confrontation after similar demonstrations rocked the country at the start of the year.
The unplanned demonstration came a day after protests forced two major shopping centers for mobile phones and electronics to close in Tehran and after demonstrators earlier closed its Grand Bazaar.
It signaled widespread unease in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and restore sanctions on the country.
It wasn’t immediately clear who led the protests. Iran’s semi-official news agencies, Fars, ISNA and Tasnim, described the protests at the Grand Bazaar as erupting after the Iranian rial dropped to 90,000 to the dollar on the country’s black market, despite government attempts to control the currency rate.
Videos posted to social media showed protesters at the bazaar heckling shopkeepers who refused to close, shouting in Farsi: “Coward!“
A short time later, about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) from the Grand Bazaar, videos shared by Iranians on social media appeared to show a crowd confronting police at parliament. The videos show tear gas in the air and protesters screaming, “They attacked us with tear gas!” Another man is heard shouting: “Come back!“
Other videos appeared to show police charging into the crowd.
State media in Iran did not immediately report the Grand Bazaar demonstration. Only Fars reported on the parliament protest, which it described only as shopkeepers asking lawmakers to “stop rising prices.”
The head of Iran’s Chamber of Guilds, Ali Fazeli, later was quoted by Tasnim as saying the situation at the bazaar is calm.
“Their demands are delivered through the chamber to the government, and these are being pursued by us,” he said.
Tehran’s sprawling Grand Bazaar has long been a center of conservatism in Iranian politics and remains an economic force within the country — despite the construction of massive malls around the city. Bazaar families opposed the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution that replaced him with a Shiite theocracy and elected officials.
At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 arrested.
However, those protests largely struck Iran’s provinces as opposed to Tehran itself. Analysts believe hard-liners likely encouraged the first protest that took place in Mashhad to try to weaken President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate. The protests then spiraled out of control, with people openly criticizing both Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Rouhani’s government has struggled with the economic problems, including high unemployment. A government-set exchange rate of 42,000 rials to $1 has generated a vibrant black market. On Monday, state television quoted Iranian Central Bank chief Valiollah Seif as saying the government plans to create a parallel market next week to combat the black market.
Meanwhile, some hard-liners have called for new elections or for Rouhani’s civilian government to be replaced by a military-led one. The Fars news agency, believed to be close to Iran’s hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, made a point Monday to publish an article from the Sobh-e No daily newspaper describing the government as being ready to “bow down to foreign threats and sit at the negotiation table.”
Eshaq Jahangiri, Iran’s first vice president, was quoted Monday as saying “we’re on the verge of an economic war by an economic terrorist,” referring to the United States.
“Conditions will get worse in future,” Jahangiri said, according to the pro-reform Etemad daily newspaper. “Even our friends and neighbors like Russia, China and Europeans can’t help us today.”