Russians Pressure U.S. Forces in Northeast Syria

Russian troops are engaging in standoffs with U.S. troops guarding oil fields and fighting remnants of the Islamic State.

NYT Story, read it here
Eric Schmitt
By Eric Schmitt
Feb. 14, 2020

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WASHINGTON — Russia is intensifying a pressure campaign on U.S. military forces in northeastern Syria following the American withdrawal from much of that area ahead of a Turkish cross-border offensive last fall, American military and diplomatic officials say.

Russian military personnel have increasingly had run-ins with U.S. troops on highways in the region, breaking agreements between the two countries to steer clear of each other. Russian helicopters are flying closer to American troops. And on Wednesday, a U.S.-led convoy returned fire after it came under attack near a checkpoint manned by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who are backed by Russia.

American officials say these actions by Russian personnel and their Syrian allies are devised to present a constant set of challenges, probes and encroachments to slowly create new facts on the ground and make the U.S. military presence there more tenuous. About 500 American troops remain deployed in Syria with a mission to protect oil fields and help fight remnants of the Islamic State.

“These are not daily occurrences but they have been increasing in number, and thus is troubling,” James F. Jeffrey, the top American diplomat overseeing Syria issues, told reporters last week.

Intel: Erdogan abandons balancing act in Syria, targets Russia

Full story here

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Russia directly for the first time in a long while in the wake of the recent escalation in northwestern Syria.

Lashing out at intense Russian airstrikes in and around Idlib, Erdogan said Russia “doesn’t comply” with the 2018 Sochi agreement to establish a demilitarized zone around the last stronghold of the Syrian rebels where the Syrian regime’s advances continue.

“The Astana process has become moribund,” Erdogan said, speaking to reporters on his return from Senegal late Wednesday. “Turkey, Russia and Iran should seek a way to revive it.” The talks in the Kazakh capital — initiated by Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin and also involving Iran — first began three years ago to find a solution to the Syrian conflict but have recently stalled.

Why it matters: As Turkey’s relations with the Western powers and regional countries took a nosedive following Ankara’s unilateral moves in Libya and the eastern Mediterranean Sea, Erdogan’s remarks targeting Russia came as a surprise.

Turkey Rejects Attempt to Investigate Dink Murder

01/24/2019 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – According to the Turkish Minute, a parliamentary motion to investigate the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, has been rejected. Dink was assassinated by an ultranationalist youth and the authorities have not revealed the murderer’s identity.

Prior to his death, Dink reported receiving a number of threats from ultranationalists for describing the killing of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire as a genocide. Dink himself was an Armenian. Human rights groups have repeatedly noted worrying irregularities in the subsequent murder investigation, including deleted or missing evidence and police officials misinforming the court.

While the Armenian Genocide predates the modern Republic of Turkey, it remains a highly sensitive topic within the country. Turkey is divided into several ethnic-religious identities. Culturally, to be considered truly Turkish then one must be Muslim. Armenians, in addition to having a different ethnicity, are Christian. Many Armenians continue to report regular harassment and discrimination in Turkish society.

Read it here.