Turkey not taking part in combat missions against IS: official

Updated 12 September 2014

Turkey not taking part in combat missions against IS: official

ANKARA: Turkey will not allow a US-led coalition to attack jihadists in neighboring Iraq and Syria from its air bases, nor will it take part in combat operations against militants, a government official told AFP Thursday.
“Turkey will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
“Incirlik will be used only for logistical purposes and humanitarian assistance,” the source, referring to a southern air base used for US and NATO operations in Iraq.
The decision echoes Turkey’s refusal in 2003 to abet the US offensive to oust Saddam Hussein, which triggered a crisis between the allies.
Ankara refused to allow Washington to station 60,000 troops in the country to invade Iraq from the north, then denied permission for Washington to use its air bases as a staging post for attacks.
Turkey has come under fire by some critics for indirectly encouraging the formation of the Islamic State because of its support of Islamist opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and its loose control of its borders.
But Ankara vehemently denies its strategy has backfired.

Drumming up support
US Secretary of State John Kerry was holding talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday to drum up support from 10 key Arab nations and Turkey, following President Barack Obama’s announcement of a new strategy against Islamic State jihadists that will include now air strikes in Syria.
After a lightning advance, IS militants now control swathes of Iraq and much of northern Syria along the Turkish border.
Turkey now sees itself a victim of the IS with Islamist militants holding 49 Turks hostage, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq on June 11.
Ankara is therefore reluctant to take a stronger role in the coalition against IS militants in apparent fear of aggravating the hostage situation.
“Our hands and arms are tied because of the hostages,” the official told AFP.
“Turkey will not take part in any combat mission, nor supply weapons.”
Though Turkey will refuse use of Incirlik Air Base for lethal air attacks in any US-led operation, it can be used for logistical and humanitarian operations, the official said.
Turkey is the only Muslim country in a coalition of 10 countries who agreed to fight IS at the NATO summit in Newport.
On Monday, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held closed-door talks with Turkish officials in Ankara where the government raised fears that weapons sent by Western countries to forces fighting IS in Iraq may end up in the hands of Kurdish separatist rebels.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), branded a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies, has joined forces with other Kurdish units in the US-backed operation to halt the advance of IS militants in Syria and Iraq.
“We have ongoing concerns which were conveyed to Hagel,” the source said.


Turkey’s role in stopping the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq has also come under spotlight, but the official said the West had to share intelligence that would allow for their capture.
“Turkey is a country that receives 35 million tourists annually,” the official told AFP.
“Unless the West shares intelligence, we cannot send back anyone just because we don’t like their appearance. Intelligence sharing is our number-one priority which was discussed at the NATO summit.”
Turkey has thus far deported 850 foreign fighters coming from both the East and the West since 2011, according to the official who strongly rebutted criticisms that Turkey was failing adequately to protect its porous border with Syria and Iraq.
“The West’s Syria policy has collapsed and Turkey is trying to be portrayed as a scapegoat,” the official said.
“It is a long, mountainous border which makes it difficult to protect. If we could, we would prevent PKK fighters in Iraq from penetrating into Turkish soil.”
Despite that, Turkey has stepped up the border security, installing surveillance towers, thermal cameras, and night-vision systems, according to the official.
The government source also said Turkey’s backing of the Syrian opposition, seeking Assad’s overthrow, was a necessary strategy to ward off against the jihadists.
“We have been keep saying since the very first day that radicals will be bolstered if the opposition is not supported.”


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 22 October 2020

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.