Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Yemen, Iran, Khashoggi murder top Pompeo’s talks in Saudi — Calls for Arab Unity

January 14, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Saudi Arabia for talks on a range of Mideast crises topped by the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, threats from Iran and the Saudi response to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.

Pompeo was meeting with the Saudi king and crown prince on Monday, the latest stop of a Middle East tour that has so far been dominated by questions and concerns about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

1 / 2
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir. (Reuters)

Speaking with senior Saudi officials on his arrival in Riyadh late Sunday, Pompeo stressed the importance ending fighting in Yemen and keeping up pressure Iran.

The State Department said Pompeo also made clear the importance of a credible investigation into Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in October.

Associated Press

See also:

NYT:https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/13/world/middleeast/mike-pompeo-saudi-arabia.html

***************************************

Arab News

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Sunday for greater unity among the Arabian Gulf states to combat Iran’s malign influence in the region.

Pompeo arrived in Riyadh on Sunday evening on the latest leg of his nine-nation tour of the Middle East.

He was greeted by Adel Al-Jubeir, the minister of state for foreign affairs, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, and US Charge D’Affaires Christopher Henzel. Later, he was expected to have talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Pompeo also said the dispute between Qatar and its neighbors had gone on for too long and was threatening regional unity needed to counter Iran.

“We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited. When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful,” he said at a press conference in Qatar earlier in the day.

Pompeo visited Doha on Sunday and signed several agreements with Qatari officials.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Arab News

@arabnews

‘s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir (@AdelAljubeir) meets with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (@SecPompeo)https://bit.ly/2TPFnaf 

See Arab News’s other Tweets

 

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017 over Doha’s support for terrorism and its closeness to Tehran.

Pompeo said Gulf unity was essential for a planned Middle East Strategic Alliance that would also include Jordan and Egypt. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have repeatedly said the dispute was not a top priority and assured Washington it would not affect defense cooperation.

“When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful,” he said.

“They never permit you to have as robust a response to common adversaries or common challenges as you might. We’re all more powerful when we’re working together.”

Pompeo said he had discussed the dispute with officials in Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. “It’s not at all clear that the rift is any closer to being resolved today than it was yesterday and I regret that,” he said. “We’re hoping that the unity of the Gulf Cooperation Council will increase in the days and weeks and months ahead.”

Pompeo said that while in Riyadh he would also be discussing the case of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist killed at the country’s consulate in Istanbul last October.

Eleven people have appeared in court in Saudi Arabia charged in connection with Khashoggi’s death, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against five of them for his murder.

“We will continue to have a conversation with the crown prince and the Saudis about ensuring the accountability is full and complete,” Pompeo said. “We’ll make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable, certainly by the Saudis but by the United States as well.”

“President Trump made clear immediately in the aftermath of this murder that the relationship is broader and deeper and bigger than that,” Pompeo said.

“We absolutely have expectations when things go wrong, when heinous acts have occurred, people need to be held accountable for this, but this relationship predated that and the relationship must go forward. We have to have a good relation with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this administration intends to do so”.

The US Secretary of State will also be traveling to Warsaw in February to attend a joint US-Poland hosted Iran-focused world summit.

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1434791/middle-east

(With agencies)

Advertisements

Pompeo: A united GCC is essential for planned MESA alliance

January 13, 2019

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that a rift between Qatar and its Arab Gulf neighbours had gone on for too long.
“We are all more powerful when we are working together and disputes are limited. When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful,” he said at a press conference in Qatar.

Pompeo also said that a united GCC is essential for the planned MESA alliance, and that the US has agreed with Qatar on a widening presence in the Udaid military base.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks in Doha. (AFP)

Pompeo arrived in Doha on Sunday and signed several agreements with Qatari officials.

Pompeo said countering Iran’s terror operations and proxy militia is one of President Donald Trump’s top priorities in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya News Channel on Saturday.

Image result for Udeid military base, photos

U.S. Honors Ceremony for the fallen, at  Udaid military base

“Countering Iran, the threat from the world’s largest state sponsor of terror – the Islamic Republic of Iran, is something President Trump has identified as one of his top priorities. We are determined to do that, we will do it with our partners in the Middle East. This is a mission for the world. It’s incredibly important and we are determined to do it,” Pompeo said during the UAE leg of his Middle East tour.

The secretary of state was previously in Manama, Cairo, Amman, Baghdad, and the Kurdish capital Erbil on a tour that is pushing Washington’s continuous support for the region in confronting Iran and extremist groups such as Daesh.

Image result for UAE support to anti-Daesh coalition, photos

Pompeo also commented on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was slain inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year.

“President Trump made clear immediately in the aftermath of this murder that the relationship is broader and deeper and bigger than that,” Pompeo said. “We absolutely have expectations when things go wrong, when heinous acts have occurred, people need to be held accountable for this, but this relationship predated that and the relationship must go forward. We have to have a good relation with the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and this administration intends to do so”.

Related image

The US Secretary of State will also be travelling to Warsaw in February to attend a joint US-Poland hosted Iran-focused world summit.

Arab News

http://www.arabnews.com/node/1434791/middle-east

Related:

Saudi rift with Qatar threatens unity against Iran, Pompeo says — Urges “full and complete” accountability on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

January 13, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday that a rift between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors had gone on for too long and was threatening regional unity needed to counter Iran.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member Egypt cut diplomatic, transport and trade ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of supporting terrorism and their regional foe Shi’ite Muslim Iran — something Doha denies.

The United States, an ally of the six-nation Sunni Muslim GCC, sees the rift as a threat to efforts to contain Iran and has pushed for a united Gulf front.

“When we have a common challenge, disputes between countries with shared objectives are never helpful,” Pompeo, who is on an eight-day tour of the Middle East, told a news conference in the Qatari capital Doha.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via Reuters | US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, Qatar; Jan. 13, 2019.

“They never permit you to have as robust a response to common adversaries or common challenges as you might,” he added.

Gas-rich Qatar says the boycott is aimed at undermining its sovereignty and has started charting a course away from its Gulf neighbors, including forging new trade partnerships, strengthening its ties with Turkey and quitting OPEC. Those moves have deepened expectations that the row will not be resolved quickly.

“We’re hoping that the unity of GCC will increase in the days and weeks and months ahead,” Pompeo said, adding that Gulf unity was essential for a planned Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) that would also include Jordan and Egypt.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have repeatedly said the dispute is not a top priority and assured Washington it will not affect defense cooperation.

Pompeo later told reporters that he had brought up the rift with officials in Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. “It’s … not at all clear that the rift is any closer to being resolved today than it was yesterday and I regret that,” he said.

Khashoggi murder

Pompeo has used the regional tour, which included stops in Abu Dhabi and Cairo, to shore up support for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.

He will head next to the Saudi capital Riyadh, where he said the United States would ensure there is “full and complete” accountability on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the U.S.-based Washington Post journalist from Saudi Arabia.

Jamal Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul after he went to get marriage documents. (File/AFP)

“We will continue to talk about that and make sure we have all the facts so that they are held accountable certainly by the Saudis but by the U.S. as well where appropriate,” Pompeo told the news conference.

Khashoggi, a long-time royal insider who had become a critic of the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

Related image

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

U.S. intelligence agencies believe the crown prince ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, whose body was dismembered and removed from the building to a location still publicly unknown. Top Turkish officials have also tied his death to the highest levels of Saudi leadership.

Saudi officials have denied accusations that the prince ordered the murder, which has left the kingdom facing its worst political crisis in generations, strained ties with Western allies and focused attention on the prince’s domestic crackdown on dissent and the war in Yemen.

Image result for Alia al-Hathloul, photos

Loujain al-Hathloul

The sister of Loujain al-Hathloul, one of several Saudi women’s rights activists detained in the kingdom since last summer and accused of treason, pressed Pompeo to raise the issue with officials in Riyadh.

In a New York Times op-ed, Alia al-Hathloul described how her sister was allegedly tortured and threatened while in detention. “Even today, I am torn about writing about Loujain, scared that speaking about her ordeal might harm her,” she wrote.

The Saudi authorities have denied such torture charges.

(REUTERS)

Liberalism’s most brilliant enemy is back in vogue

January 11, 2019

Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt appeals to opponents of democracy and the rule of law

Image result for donald trump, Xi jinping, at Mar-a-lago, pictures, al jazeera

Carl Schmitt, a jurist and Nazi party member, has been cited by the white nationalist Richard Spencer, left, and his theories are applicable to the governing styles of Donald Trump, Xi Jinping and Tayyip Recep Erdogan

By Gideon Rachman

Achieving fame as the “crown jurist of the Third Reich” does not sound like a good way of endearing yourself to posterity. Indeed, for decades after the defeat of Nazism, the ideas of Carl Schmitt were widely regarded as beyond the pale.

But in recent years there has been a global revival of interest in the work of Schmitt, who died in 1985 at the age of 96. Chinese legal scholars, Russian nationalists, the far-right in the US and Germany, as well as the far-left in Britain and France, are all drawing upon the work of the premier legal theorist of Nazi Germany. The resurgence of interest in Schmitt is testimony to a global backlash against liberalism. As the Princeton political theorist Jan-Werner Müller puts it, Schmitt was “the [20th]century’s most brilliant enemy of liberalism”.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 8 January

President Erdogan. EPA photo

Schmitt’s hostility to parliamentary democracy, and his support for the power of an authoritarian leader to decide the law, led him down some very dark paths. He issued a legal opinion justifying Hitler’s suspension of democracy and assumption of emergency powers after the Reichstag fire in 1933. And when the Nazis murdered scores of their enemies in the “Night of the Long Knives”, Schmitt wrote a notorious essay justifying the killings.

Image result for Reichstag fire in 1933, pictures

Reichstag fire in 1933

He was also an anti-Semite who called for the expulsion of Jewish academics from Germany and convened a conference on purging German law of Jewish influence. Despite this, contemporary anti-liberals find much to admire in his work.

Image result for Night of the Long Knives, pictures

He scorned ideas such as the separation of powers and universal human rights and argued that the distinction between “friend” and “enemy” is fundamental to politics: “Tell me who your enemy is and I will tell you who you are.”

To Schmitt, liberal talk of the brotherhood of man was simply hypocrisy. While liberals are concerned with the establishment of the rule of law, Schmitt was more interested in how the rule of law can be suspended through the declaration of a state of emergency.

As he wrote: “Sovereign is he who decides on the exception.”

This argument has a particular resonance in modern Germany, where the far-right Alternative for Germany party argues that Chancellor Angela Merkel should have suspended international law on refugees, rather than allowing more than 1m migrants to enter Germany in 2015 and 2016. The Trump administration is considering declaring a limited state of emergency in response to the alleged threat to America’s southern border posed by illegal migrants and refugees.

Contemporary Turkey and Egypt provide examples of how the declaration of a state of emergency can be used to suspend legal rights to devastating effect. There is no reason to believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has studied Schmitt. But authoritarian thinkers elsewhere in the world are clearly drawing upon his ideas. In China, legal scholars at Beijing University have used his thought to justify the Communist party’s control of the courts.

As François Bougon, author of a study of President Xi Jinping, explains: “In Schmitt, Chinese authors have found arguments against liberal conceptions of western democracy.”

Alexander Dugin, a Russian nationalist intellectual, has written an essay entitled “Carl Schmitt’s Five Lessons for Russia”. He praises his dicta of “politics above all else” and “let there always be enemies”.

And, as a believer in the importance of the Eurasian landmass to Russia’s destiny, Mr Dugin is attracted to Schmitt’s emphasis on “great spaces”, “large geopolitical entities, each of which should be governed by a flexible super state”. Ironically, this was a doctrine that was used to justify the Nazi invasion of Russia, in the search for Lebensraum.

But Mr Dugin finds in Schmitt a moral justification for great land empires and “a clear understanding of the enemy facing Europe, Russia and Asia that is the United States of America along with its . . . island ally, England”. However, there are also fringe thinkers in the US and England, who are attracted to Schmitt’s ideas.

Richard Spencer, an American white supremacist who coined the term, “alt-right”, has cited Schmitt, along with Nietzsche, as an inspiration. And some on the European radical left have also been attracted by Schmitt’s rejection of liberal attempts to take politics out of the operation of the law or the conduct of economic policy.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the study of Schmitt has also entered the academic mainstream. As Professor Müller puts it: “In many ways his thought has been normalised.” In 2017, Oxford University Press published The Oxford Handbook of Carl Schmitt. The blurb notes: “Despite Schmitt’s rabid anti-Semitism . . . the appeal of his trenchant critiques of . . . representative democracy and international law . . . is undiminished.”

Ironically, this willingness to debate disagreeable ideas is a hallmark of the very liberalism that Schmitt despised. But the notion that Schmitt’s “trenchant critiques” can be admired separately from his despicable life may be taking liberal tolerance a little too far.

gideon.rachman@ft.com

https://www.ft.com/content/bc9c69fe-14da-11e9-a581-4ff78404524e

See also:

Carl Schmitt: The Philosopher of Conflict Who Inspired Both the Left and the Right

https://www.valuewalk.com/2016/11/carl-schmitt-nazi/

What Real Border Security Looks Like — Why is it so hard for America to do what others did a long time ago

January 11, 2019

Republicans and Democrats should agree to build an Israeli-style “smart fence.”

By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

Other than the Korean Peninsula’s DMZ, there’s probably no border in the world as fraught with the potential for sudden violence as this one, known locally as the Blue Line. Since President Trump thinks border security is the issue of our time, it’s worth considering how Israel — with tight borders, real threats, and a no-nonsense attitude toward its security needs — does it.

What I saw on Wednesday while traveling along the Blue Line was … a fence. A fence studded with sensors, to be sure, but by no means an imposing one. As the accompanying photos show, here is what a long stretch of the border between two sworn enemies looks like.

Image result for Israel, border fence, photos

 New section of fence, north of Eilat, Israel–Egypt border

And here is a Hezbollah observation post, masquerading as an environmental group operating under the slogan, “Green Without Borders.” (Green is the traditional color of Islam.) The Israelis maintain an equally visible, if outwardly low-key, security presence.

Does that look like Trump’s idea of a “big beautiful wall”? Does it even look like the “steel slats” the president now offers as his idea of an aesthetic concession to Democrats? Not quite. Yet for the last 19 years it was all the fencing Israelis thought was necessary to secure its side of the Blue Line.

barrier wall

Israel’s wall: Children play soccer in the Palestinian town Anata, Nov. 25, 2005.  Photo by Yotam Ronen

That started to change in December, after Israel announced that it was conducting an operation to destroy tunnels dug by Hezbollah under the border. The tunnel construction — secretly detected by Israel some four years ago — was intended to infiltrate hundreds of Hezbollah fighters into Israel in the event of war. As an additional precaution, Jerusalem is spending an estimated $600 million to replace about 20 kilometers of the fence with a concrete wall, mainly to provide greater peace of mind to the 162,000 Israelis who live near the Lebanese border.

Image result for turkey, border wall, photos

Turkey’s smart wall under construction: “Apart from illustration, we have set up a system with solar energy. We developed the systems of illustration, camera and censor.” (see link below)

Image result for israel border fence, pictures

A section of the border fence between Israel and Egypt, January 2012. (Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

Such a wall may look formidable. But it won’t stop tunnel construction or missile firing, the two principal threats Hezbollah poses to Israel. Nor has Israel felt the need to erect concrete walls along most of its border with the Gaza Strip, despite Hamas’s multiple attempts last year to use mass protests to breach the fence. Israel’s border with Egypt is marked by a tall and sturdy “smart fence” packed with electronic sensors, but not a wall. And Israel’s longest border, with Jordan, stretching some 400 kilometers (about 250 miles), has fencing that for the most part is primitive and minimal.

A big portion of the border between Israel and Lebanon looks like this.Credit Bret Stephens/The New York Times
.
A Hezbollah observation post disguised as an environmental group’s station. Credit Bret Stephens/The New York Times

So how does Israel maintain border security? Two ways: close cooperation with neighbors where it’s possible and the use of modern technology and effective deterrence where it’s not.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi recently attested to the depth of cooperation in an interview last week with 60 Minutes — so deep, in fact, that the Egyptian government made an attempt to stop the interview from airing. Jordan’s border patrol typically does its work facing east, not west, to prevent possible penetrations into Israel. Security cooperation with the Palestinian Authority also runs deep despite political differences, since Mahmoud Abbas shares Israel’s interest in suppressing Hamas.

As for technology, I saw it at work on a tour earlier Wednesday of an Israeli military base on the Golan Heights. In a crowded, windowless room within a bunker-like structure, 20 or so women soldiers, some of them still teenagers, sat at screens patiently watching every inch of Israel’s border with Syria, noticing patterns, prioritizing potential threats, and relaying information to operators in the field.

An all-female unit monitors the border with Syria on video screens. Credit Israel Defense Force

Why an all-female unit? Because the Israeli military has determined that women have longer attention spans than men. Last August, the unit spotted seven Islamic State fighters, wearing suicide belts and carrying grenades, as they were infiltrating a no-man’s land on their way to Israel. An airstrike was called in. The men never reached the border.

None of this is to say that physical barriers are invariably pointless or evil. Israel’s fence along the Egyptian border all-but ended the flow of illegal African migrants, though most illegal immigrants in Israel arrive legally by plane and simply overstay their visas. The much-maligned wall (most of which is also a fence) that divides Palestinians from Israelis in Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank played a major role in ending the terrorism of the Second Intifada.

Yet the Israeli experience also suggests that the best way to protect a border is to rely on the tools of the 21st century, not the 12th. Walls only occasionally provide the most reliable security. They can be dangerous for providing the illusion of security. And there are vastly more effective means than concrete to defend even the most dangerous borders. Why can’t Democrats and Republicans simply agree to build additional smart fencing in places where it’s missing and call it, for political effect, an “Israeli-style barrier”?

The good news for the U.S. is that we don’t face Hezbollah, Hamas or ISIS across our border, only people who overwhelmingly want to relieve their own plight and contribute their labor for everyone’s betterment. If we really wanted to secure the border, our first priority should be to make it easier for them to arrive through the front door rather than sneak in through the back.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) andInstagram.

Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post.

See also:

Pompeo vows US will fight Isis in Middle East despite Syria move

January 10, 2019

Secretary of state says Trump’s decisiion is not a ‘change of mission’

Heba Saleh in Cairo

Pompeo meets the Egyptian president ahead of his wide ranging speech on US Middle East policy in Cairo. (AFP)

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, has reaffirmed the country’s commitment to fighting Isis in the Middle East, despite the administration’s December decision to pull out forces from Syria.

Speaking from Cairo, Mr Pompeo said the decision to withdraw was not a “change of mission” and that the US would continue to conduct air strikes against the group “as targets arise” and to “hunt down terrorists in Libya and Yemen.”

On broader US strategy in the Middle East, Mr Pompeo reserved his tougher words for Iran saying: “We must confront the Ayatollahs, not coddle them.”

Without naming the former US president, Mr Pompeo rebuked Barack Obama for his stance on Iran, “our common enemy,” and implementing policies which he says weakened the role of the US in the region.

Mr Pompeo is on a tour of the Middle East, making stops in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. He plans to continue to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

https://www.ft.com/content/abebf836-14e4-11e9-a581-4ff78404524e

********************************************

AFP

Pompeo: US seeks to ‘expel every last Iranian boot’ in Syria

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed Thursday the United States and its allies would chase all Iranian troops from Syria, and urged Middle East nations to forge a common stand against Tehran.

“It’s time for old rivalries to end, for the sake of the greater good of the region,” said Pompeo at a keynote address in Cairo.

America “will use diplomacy and work with our partners to expel every last Iranian boot” from Syria and bolster efforts “to bring peace and stability to the long-suffering Syrian people,” he added.

The top US diplomat was in Egypt on the latest leg of a whistle-stop regional tour aimed at shoring up Washington’s Middle East policy following President Donald Trump’s shock decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Secretary Pompeo

@SecPompeo

I had a productive meeting with @AlsisiOfficial in Cairo today. The U.S. stands firmly with in its commitments to protecting and in the fight against terrorism that threatens all of our friends in the Middle East.

554 people are talking about this

Pompeo stressed the pullout would go ahead, despite comments in recent weeks appearing to walk back Trump’s decision, but that the US would remain engaged.

The “decision to withdraw our troops has been made. We will do that. We will withdraw our forces, our uniformed forces, from Syria and continue America’s crushing campaign,” Pompeo told reporters at a joint press conference with his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry.

He also met earlier with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, after arriving in Cairo late Wednesday on his longest trip since taking office last year which has already taken him to Jordan, Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdish regional capital Arbil.

In his address entitled “A Force for Good: America Reinvigorated in the Middle East” at the American University in Cairo, Pompeo also took aim at former president Barack Obama without naming him.

Trump’s predecessor had “grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism,” Pompeo said.

And parroting Obama’s words in his landmark 2009 speech in Cairo, Pompeo vowed that now was really “a new beginning” in ties between the US and the Middle East.

Pompeo’s tour is aimed at urging regional allies to continue to confront the “significant threats” posed by Iran and extremists.

Even though Daesh have been largely eradicated from Iraq, after capturing a vast swathe of territory in 2014, some still control a few pockets in war-torn Syria.

Pompeo will also visit Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.

As he arrived in Egypt, the State Department described the country as a “steadfast partner in the anti-terror fight, and a courageous voice in denouncing the radical Islamist ideology that fuels it.”

But there are rising concerns that US policy is getting bogged down. A long-promised Trump plan for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians has so far failed to materialise.

And many of the Trump administration’s decisions have stoked confusion and angered many regional allies.

Turkey and the United States are now at loggerheads over the future of Syrian Kurdish forces, considered by Ankara as “terrorists,” after the troop pullout.

Turkish officials had a tense meeting this week with Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton in Ankara aimed at coordinating the pullout process after Bolton set conditions that appeared to postpone it indefinitely.

The terms included total defeat of Daesh – still active in some Syrian regions – and ensuring that Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the Americans against the jihadists will be protected.

On Thursday, Turkey renewed its threat to launch an offensive against Kurds.

“If the (pullout) is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

 

Pompeo says US will not abandon its Kurdish partners in Syria

January 10, 2019

Protecting THE KURDS: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the U.S. and Turkey continue to discuss the protection of Kurdish fighters who have been the key factor in defeating ISIS. A planned Turkish offensive now threatens elements of the Kurdish militia that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls terrorists.

But speaking to reporters in Erbil, Iraq, Pompeo insisted the U.S. withdrawal of its 2,200 troops from Syria would not be derailed by the ongoing negotiations with Turkey. “We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces, makes sure that the Americans, as we withdraw, are safe, and we will complete the mission of taking down the last elements of the caliphate before we depart,” Pompeo said.

Related image

The U.S. is asking for assurances that Turkey will not slaughter the Kurds once the Americans pull out. That’s crucial to the Kurds’ safety, and U.S. credibility in convincing local partner forces to work with the U.S. in future endeavors.

“These have been folks that have fought with us and it’s important that we do everything we can to ensure that those folks that fought with us are protected,” Pompeo told reporters yesterday in Iraq. “Erdogan has made commitments; he understands that – I think he uses the language – he talks about he has no beef with the Kurds. We want to make sure that that’s the case.”

Pompeo said the U.S. acknowledges there is a real threat to Turkey from terrorists and will support legitimate counterterrorism operations. “Any place we find extremists and terrorists, we’re prepared to support whatever country is ready to go after them. That includes Turkey and others.”

TURKEY TALKING TOUGH: Meanwhile Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said yesterday Turkey will not refrain from military action to protect its borders from what he described as threats posed by Syrian Kurdish fighters, according to the AP.

Image result for Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, photos

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu

Cavusoglu told Turkey’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee the U.S. was “struggling to withdraw” from Syria because it was too far engaged with the militia group.

REASSURING ALLIES: Pompeo’s trip this week is all about reassuring allies that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria does not mean the American is abandoning the Middle East. Today, Pompeo is giving a major speech at the American University in Cairo. Pompeo will underscore the threat from Iran and praise Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as “a steadfast partner in the anti-terror fight, and a courageous voice in denouncing the radical Islamist ideology.”

Pompeo arrived in Cairo late last night following stops in Jordan and Iraq and met with Sisi this morning ahead of his planned speech.

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pompeo-says-us-will-not-abandon-its-kurdish-partners-in-syria

Related:

Pompeo in Egypt amid concerns over US Mideast policy

January 10, 2019

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Cairo for talks with Egyptian leaders as he continues a nine-nation Middle East tour aimed at reassuring America’s Arab partners that the Trump administration is not walking away from the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from left, meets with King Abdullah of Jordan, second from right, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Amman, Jordan.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, second from left, meets with King Abdullah of Jordan, second from right, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, in Amman, Jordan.

Amid confusion over the administration’s plans to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, Pompeo was meeting Egypt’s president and foreign minister Thursday to discuss security and economic cooperation.

He was also to deliver a speech on Washington’s broader Mideast objectives.

Pompeo arrived in Egypt after stops in Jordan and Iraq where he sought to assure leaders that withdrawing from Syria doesn’t mean the U.S. is abandoning the fight against the Islamic State group or easing pressure on Iran. From Egypt, Pompeo will travel to the Gulf Arab states to press the case.

Associated Press

See also:

Pompeo Arrives in Jordan on 8-Nation Middle East Tour

https://www.voanews.com/a/us-secretary-of-state-arrives-in-jordan-on-eight-nation-tour-of-the-middle-east/4733941.html

Related:

Erdogan threats against Kurds will not stop Syria withdrawal, Pompeo says

January 10, 2019

The US troop withdrawal from Syria will not be scuppered despite Turkish threats against Washington’s Kurdish allies there, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, promising to ensure that the Kurds would still be protected.

.
Pompeo met leaders in Iraq’s capital and its semi-autonomous Kurdistan region on Wednesday, aiming to reassure them about Washington’s plans following President Donald Trump’s surprise announcement last month of an abrupt withdrawal from Syria.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo   (File/AP/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds)

.
The unannounced visits to Baghdad and the Kurdish regional capital Irbil came on the second day of a Middle East tour also taking in Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman.

.
Pompeo has the task of explaining US policy in the region after Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops from Syria, which rattled allies and came as a shock to top US officials. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis quit over it.

.
The US forces have been working with a Kurdish militia to fight against Daesh. The Kurds control a swath of northeastern Syria, Washington’s foothold in a conflict that has drawn in Russia, Iran, Turkey and other regional powers.

.
Washington has repeatedly said its Kurdish allies will remain safe despite the withdrawal. But Turkey, which considers the US-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia an enemy, has repeatedly vowed to crush the group and repudiated any suggestion of protecting it once US troops leave.

.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan denounced visiting US National Security Adviser John Bolton on Tuesday for suggesting that protecting the Kurds would be a pre-condition of the US withdrawal, a suggestion Erdogan called “a serious mistake.”

.
Asked in Irbil if Erdogan’s pushback on the protection of the Kurds puts the withdrawal at risk, Pompeo told reporters: “No. We’re having conversations with them even as we speak about how we will effectuate this in a way that protects our forces…

.
“It’s important that we do everything we can to make sure that those folks that fought with us are protected and Erdogan has made commitments, he understands that,” Pompeo added.

.
Smooth over relations

.

The withdrawal of US forces in Syria strengthens the hand both of Turkey and of the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad, which is backed by Russia and Iran. Pompeo has stressed throughout his trip to the region that Washington still aims to counter Iranian influence.

.
In Iraq, Pompeo also sought to smooth over relations after political leaders were angered when Trump visited US troops on the day after Christmas at a remote desert air base without stopping in Baghdad or meeting any Iraqi officials.

.
Many politicians from the ruling coalition of mainly Shiite parties called Trump’s visit a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and demanded the United States withdraw troops.

.
In Baghdad, Pompeo met Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hakim, Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Al-Halbousi and President Barham Salih.

.
President Salih, answering a reporter’s question on whether he wants the United States to keep troops, said Iraq “will need the support of the US” and expressed his “gratitude to the US for support over the years.”
“Daesh is defeated militarily but the mission is not accomplished,” Salih said, using an acronym for Daesh.

.
The United States withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2011 eight years after an invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, but sent thousands back after Daesh fighters swept into the north of the country in 2014. It now has around 5,200 there, and Trump has not announced plans to pull them out.

.
Daesh militants are still waging insurgent attacks in the north of the country and trying to make a comeback, although they were driven from all towns and cities last year.

.
Asked on Tuesday about what would be discussed during a possible meeting with Pompeo, Abdul Mahdi said deepening Iraq’s relationship with the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.

.
“He’s an ally, he represents a friendly country,” Abdul Mahdi said of Pompeo on Tuesday. “We will raise those issues, and how to deal with regional issues altogether and deepen our economic and educational relations with the United States.”

Reuters

Sudan: More Protests Sunday — cost of some commodities including medicines has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent

January 6, 2019

A Sudanese group organising anti-government protests has called for a march on the presidential palace as President Omar al-Bashir sacked the health minister Saturday over rising costs of medicines.

Deadly anti-government rallies have rocked cities including Khartoum since December 19, when protests first broke out over a government decision to raise the price of bread.

Image result for anti-government protests, sudan, pictures

Authorities say at least 19 people including two security personnel have been killed in clashes during the demonstrations so far, but rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

“We call on our supporters to gather at four different places in Khartoum and then begin a march on the palace” of the president on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association said Saturday in a statement.

The association, which includes teachers, doctors and engineers, has held similar rallies in recent weeks but they have been swifty broken up by riot police.

Security forces were deployed in key squares across the capital on Saturday night.

Related image

Late on Saturday, Bashir sacked minister of health Mohamed Abuzaid Mustafa, the official SUNA news agency reported.

He has been replaced by Al-Khier Al-Nour, SUNA said without giving details.

Rising drug prices and shortages have added to the anger of protestors already furious over the cost of other key products.

Sudanese pharmaceutical companies have been unable to import some medicines after a years-long foreign currency shortage worsened last year.

But even as protesters called for a new march on Sunday, Sudan’s education ministry ordered the reopening of schools in Khartoum from Tuesday.

Schools and classes had been suspended “indefinitely” across the capital since December 23, when violence erupted during initial protests.

Sudanese protesters run away from tear gas during a demonstration in Khartoum, on December 31, 2018

Sudanese protesters run away from tear gas during a demonstration in Khartoum, on December 31, 2018 Sudanese protesters run away from tear gas during a demonstration in Khartoum, on December 31, 2018 AFP

Schools were also closed in other cities where protests have been held, but it was still unclear whether they would reopen next week.

Image result for anti-government protests, sudan, pictures

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered Sudan his country’s support during a meeting in Cairo with a top aide of his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

“Egypt fully supports the security and stability of Sudan, which is integral to Egypt’s national security,” it quoted Sisi as saying.

Sudanese authorities have launched a crackdown on opposition leaders, activists and journalists since protests erupted last month.

The country has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year.

The cost of some commodities including medicines has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent.

Food and fuel shortages have been regularly reported across several cities, including Khartoum.

AFP