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Kurds Tag

President Donald Trump received major backlash on Monday morning after the White House announced late Sunday night it will remove troops in northern Syria. This will allow Turkey to start its offensive, effectively leaving the Kurds unprotected. Officials told Fox News that Trump's decision "completely blindsided" those at the Pentagon. Others said the move betrayed the Kurds because Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not hide his hatred of the Kurds.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the US military has started preparations to remove all of its forces from northeastern Syria:
U.S. officials began informing partners in northeastern Syria of their plans to begin immediately pulling American forces out of the region where they have been trying to wrap up the campaign against Islamic State, the people said.

Turkey is preparing a military offensive against the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurds, Turkish state-run media sources say. "We will start our operation in a few days to liberate areas east of the Euphrates River from terrorist organizations," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared in a speech in Ankara Wednesday, referring to the presence of Kurdish forces in neighboring Syria. Kurds, fighting alongside the Assyrian Christians, had played a key role in liberating large parts of Syrian and Iraqi territories from the Islamic State.

Last year, tensions between America and Turkey rose after members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's security detail attacked and beat up protesters outside of the Turkish embassy. Those tensions may ease since federal prosecutors have decided to drop charges against 11 of the 15 men charged...even though people caught the brawl on tape.

Kirkuk, Iraq has become a centerpiece in the Iraqi government's rejection of the overwhelmingly successful Kurdish Independence Referendum. Monday, Iraq took control of Kirkuk, which has been under Kurdish control since they took it from ISIS in 2014 as Iraqi forces fled.  It is surprising that the Kurds did not stand and fight for the hard-won Kirkuk, but it's not yet clear this was the case as there have been reports of gunfire and "clashes" in the city.  The resistance by Kurdish forces appears to have been somewhat minimal. The BBC reports:
The Iraqi military moved into Kirkuk three weeks after the Kurdistan Region held a controversial independence referendum.

We blogged about the Kurdish Independence vote held last week and about the resulting international threats and tensions, including the closing of Kurdish airports. Pro-western Iraqi Kurds are disappointed by the lukewarm European response to their overwhelming victory, and can't be too happy with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's statement that the U. S. does not recognize their independence referendum. Turkey, Iran, and Iraq are stepping up their disapproval of the referendum and moving to isolate the Kurdish region of Iraq.

Last week, we blogged about today's Kuridsh Independence referendum.  Yesterday's Kurdish independence rally attracted an enormous crowd, perhaps foreshadowing nearly 80% of the reported 3.9 million registered voters turning out at the polls today. Jubilant Kurds described today as "the best day of their life" and some even took to flying the Brazilian flag because there were no Kurdish ones left.

The Turkish government has summoned the U.S. ambassador over a brawl that Turkish bodyguards instigated in front of the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., last week. From USA Today:
In a statement Monday, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ambassador was summoned and “a written and verbal protest was delivered due to the aggressive and unprofessional actions taken, contrary to diplomatic rules and practices, by U.S. security personnel toward the close protection team of H.E Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.”

President Donald Trump welcomed Turkish dictator president Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House Tuesday. A group of protesters outside of the Turkish Embassy showed support for the groups that Erdogan regularly cracks down on in Turkey. Erdogan's bodyguards did not appreciate this move and decided to pummel the protesters in broad daylight...on Embassy Row.

The Obama Administration told Kurdish forces in Syria to move back from their positions after they seized control of the ISIS-held Syrian town of Manbij. “We’ve made it absolutely clear [to the Kurdish forces that] they must move back across the river,” Vice President Joe Biden said during a visit to Turkey on Wednesday. “They cannot — will not — under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment.” Biden's stance is widely seen as an attempt to pacify Erdogan’s Turkey, alarmed by recent Kurdish gains against ISIS in Syria. Erdogan’s Turkey, after maintaining long tacit alliance with the Islamic State, has recently dispatched military troops into Syria -- not to fight ISIS but to hold the line against Kurds. In contrast, Kurds of Syria and Iraq have proven themselves as the most reliable fighting force in war against the Islamic State. The Associated Press reports:
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden is calling on Syrian Kurdish forces to move back across the Euphrates River, telling them they will lose U.S. support if they don't.

As of now, I'm still planning on heading to Israel at the end of next week, though that could always change last minute. Family health issues seem under control at the moment, and I'm going with one of my daughters so I really didn't want to cancel if at all possible. I think I'll have some interesting perspectives, based on what's currently planned. As before, there will be an emphasis on security-related issues. I found this video, tweeted out by Becky Griffin, of interest. Here's the video:

The Turkish parliament dived into another fistfight this week as the lawmakers debate changes to the country's constitution. The members fought again about stripping some members of parliament of their immunity if they face charges. The fight "left one person with a dislocated shoulder and a second with a bloodied nose."

Last week, U.S. Forces teamed up with Kurdish Peshmergas to rescue captives held at an Islamic State compound in northern Iraq. The mission freed around 70 hostages, but led to the death of Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler---the first U.S. service member to die in combat in Iraq since 2011. After the mission was complete, the Kurdistan Regional Government---the same body who requested the raid and the help of U.S. forces---released footage from a helmet cam worn by one of the Kurdish soldiers. Watch (the footage is intense, but not NSFW): According to CNN, a U.S. military official has confirmed the authenticity of the video.