Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about ‘no civilian deaths’ in Afrin

Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters looks at a damaged house as they battle for control of the village of Al-Bayyah northeast of the town of Afrin near the border with Turkey on Feb. 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 February 2018

Pro-Kurdish party says Turkey lying about ‘no civilian deaths’ in Afrin

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party accused the government of “spreading misinformation” about no civilian deaths in its latest Syrian offensive on Thursday, calling on Ankara to halt the operation.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said earlier Thursday that no civilian had been killed — or suffered so much as “a nose bleed” — in Turkey’s air and ground campaign in the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.
But Pervin Buldan, the newly elected co-head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), told reporters in Istanbul that many civilians had died in Afrin, including women and children.
“The government is spreading misinformation by saying that there are no civilian deaths and that ‘terrorists’ were only killed. It is a lie,” Buldan said on Thursday, adding that Turkey will “gain nothing” from the offensive.
“In Turkey we have also seen the coffins of many soldiers killed. This is why the Afrin operation should stop,” she added.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 112 civilians have been killed since the operation began on January 20 — a claim which Ankara denies, insisting the Turkish army is taking the “utmost care” to avoid civilian casualties.
Ankara says the YPG is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is proscribed as a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies. The PKK has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
But the YPG has been working closely with the US against Daesh in Syria and makes up the bulk of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters.
“The world knows that the YPG is part of the SDF which fought Daesh. We believe the SDF should be part of a peace resolution in Syria,” said Sezai Temelli, HDP’s other co-leader.
Temelli and Buldan replaced the popular Selahattin Demirtas, who has been imprisoned since 2016 over alleged links to the PKK, and Serpil Kemalbay as HDP leaders earlier this month.
Ankara accuses the HDP, the third Turkish largest party and the only political group in parliament to oppose the Afrin offensive, of being a political front for the PKK, which the party denies.
More than 200 pro-Ankara rebels and 209 YPG members have been killed since the Afrin operation began, the Syrian Observatory has said.
Thirty-two Turkish military personnel have been also been killed.


Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.