Turkey to US: End support for YPG or risk confrontation

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting in Ankara, Turkey January 24, 2018. Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
Updated 25 January 2018
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Turkey to US: End support for YPG or risk confrontation

ANKARA/BEIRUT: Turkey urged the US on Thursday to halt its support for Kurdish YPG fighters or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria, some of Ankara’s strongest comments yet about a potential clash with its NATO ally.
The comments, from the spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, underscore the growing bilateral tensions, six days after Turkey launched its air and ground operation, “Olive Branch,” in Syria’s northwestern Afrin region.
Turkey’s targeting of the YPG, which it views as a security threat, has opened a new front in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.
Any push by Turkish forces toward Manbij, part of a Kurdish-held territory some 100 km east of Afrin, could threaten US plans to stabilize northeast Syria and bring them into direct confrontation with US troops deployed there.
“Those who support the terrorist organization will become a target in this battle,” Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said.
“The US needs to review its solders and elements giving support to terrorists on the ground in such a way as to avoid a confrontation with Turkey,” Bozdag, who also acts as the government’s spokesman, told broadcaster A Haber.
The US has around 2,000 troops in Syria, officially as part of an international, US-led coalition against Daesh. Washington has angered Ankara by providing arms, training and air support to Syrian Kurdish forces that Turkey views as terrorists.
US forces were deployed in and around Manbij last March to deter Turkish and US-backed fighters from attacking each other and have also carried out training missions in the area.
US President Donald Trump urged Erdogan on Wednesday to curtail the military operation in Syria, the White House said.
However Turkey has disputed that characterization of the conversation.
“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns about escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin,” a Turkish official said.
“The two leaders’ discussion of Operation Olive Branch was limited to an exchange of views,” the official said.
Six days into the campaign, Turkish soldiers and their Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighter allies have been battling to gain footholds on the western, northern and eastern flanks of Afrin.
They appear to have made only limited gains, hampered by rain and clouds, which have limited the air support.
Turkish warplanes struck the northern borders of Afrin, in tandem with heavy artillery shelling, and one civilian was killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.
Dozens of combatants and more than 2 dozen civilians have been killed so far since Turkey launched the offensive, the Observatory has said.
Turkey said the US had proposed a 30 km “safe zone” along the border with Syria.
“(But) in order for us to discuss the security zone or any other issue with the US, we have to reestablish trust,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.
The Afrin operation has also triggered some concern in Germany, another NATO ally, where the caretaker government said on Thursday it would put on hold any decision on upgrading Turkey’s German-made tanks.
Turkey’s use of the Leopard 2 tanks in Afrin has fueled a debate about Berlin’s approval of arms exports.
A senior Kurdish official said on Thursday Syria’s main Kurdish groups would not attend a Syrian peace congress in Russia next week and that there could be no discussion of ending the war while the Turkish offensive continues.


Jordanians fight back against terrorism

King Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein during their visit to the Gendarmerie and Public Security Directorates headquarters in Amman on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 36 min 49 sec ago
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Jordanians fight back against terrorism

  • Militants from Daesh and other radical groups have long targeted Jordan and dozens of militants are serving long prison terms
  • Jordanian security forces have been extra vigilant having warned that sympathizers of Daesh could launch revenge attacks after militants were driven out of most of the territory

JEDDAH: The terrorist attacks in Jordan over the weekend shocked the country but the people support the security agencies in countering extremist ideologies, political analysts told Arab News on Tuesday.
The chain of events in Jordan began on Friday when assailants detonated a homemade bomb under a police car guarding a music festival in the predominantly Christian town of Fuheis, west of the capital, Amman. The blast killed a police officer.
Security forces chasing the Fuheis suspects raided a multi-story building in the nearby town of Salt on Saturday.
The militants opened fire and set off explosives, killing four members of the security forces and collapsing part of the building. Three suspects were killed and five were taken into custody.
The assailants had hoarded large quantities of explosives that were apparently intended for attacks on civilians in public places and on security installations. The explosives “were ready, on a timer, and could be detonated immediately,” government spokeswoman Jumana Ghuneimat told reporters at a press conference on Monday.
According to university professor and geopolitical analyst Amer Sabaileh, the attack in Fuheis and the subsequent clashes in the city of Salt indicated that the terrorists were currently targeting the security services.
“The explosive device planted under a security patrol’s vehicle in Fuheis did not target civilians, although there were large numbers participating in the Fuheis Festival. They insisted on sending a clear message that the target of terrorism at this stage are the security services,” Sabaileh said.
This trend indicated that there was an internal decision among the members of these terrorist organizations that the “enemy” was the security members but not civilians.
This puts the members of the security services in direct confrontation with this pattern of terrorism, which was clearly evident in other countries where the security services were targeted directly, he said.
However, this did not mean that the terrorists might not also target civilians in the future.
Sabaileh praised the timely security operation to unveil and swiftly counter the terrorist cell behind the Fuhais attack in less than 24 hours.
“The logical reading of the events of Salt indicates the high effectiveness of the anti-terrorism squad at the Jordanian intelligence department, which was able to read the facts of the Fuheis attack and identify the people and the point of their presence very quickly,” he said.
Nevertheless, he said, the high number of casualties among the security task force that responded to the terrorists requires the Jordanian authorities to revise all security plans, training and tactics.
Officials said on Monday that the suspected militants who killed members of Jordan’s security forces over the weekend were Jordanian citizens who support the ideology of the Daesh group but did not have proven links to foreign funding or foreign extremist organizations.
“It is clear that all the conferences, seminars and funds spent on strategies and plans to combat extremism and terrorism, and the establishment of a special unit (the anti-extremism unit), were in vain and had no real value, and this requires those responsible to reconsider all training programs and anti-terrorism strategies,” he said.
Hassan Barari, a professor of political science at the University of Jordan, said that there were lessons to be learnt from the recent attacks.
“First, there is a consensus among Jordanians that the stability and security of the country is a top priority. The solidarity expressed by Jordanians is a statement of a strong domestic front, and this should be reinforced by sound policies by the government,” Barari said.
“Second, there is a pressing need to nip radicalism in the bud. We all know that there are some incubating environments for radicalism in at least three sites in Jordan. Given the gravity of the situation, the government should adopt a deradicalization strategy. True, the security approach is a key pillar for this strategy; yet, it is far from being sufficient,” he said.
He underlined that many young Jordanians were susceptible to radicalization due to their perception of the weakness of the current political reality and a lack of a stake in the political order, and it was time to admit that there was an ideological component to this that could not be confronted by force alone.
On Tuesday, King Abdullah visited the General Directorate of the Gendarmerie and the General Security Directorate, where he said: “We are not worried about the security of our country’s present and future. Our society rejects the extremist ideas and those carrying it and trying to force it on our society.”