Category - USA: Foreign Relations

Turkey expands bombing raids to PKK targets in Iraq

PM’s office says jets bombed Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, hours after planes pounded ISIL positions in Syria.

Al Jazeera, July 25

Turkish fighter jets have bombed military positions of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in neighbouring Iraq.

The air raids came just hours after Turkish planes pounded Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria on Friday morning, marking a significant shift in Ankara’s position on how to deal with armed groups in Syria and Iraq.

“Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh [ISIL] terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement, adding that shelters and warehouses containing PKK weapons were hit in the northern Iraq operation.

[…]

Turkey also approved the full use of its airbases by the US-led coalition against ISIL, according to the foreign ministry, marking a major change in its policy following a suicide bomb attack in Suruc, bordering Syria.

“The cabinet of ministers has given approval for the stationing in our country’s bases of manned and unmanned aircraft of the US and other coalition countries … taking part in air operations against Islamic State,” the foreign ministry said, adding that Turkey’s own aircraft would also be deployed.


RT: Turkey attacks Kurdish militia & ISIS positions – PM’s office

Prime Minister Davutoglu told reporters that some 590 suspected members of IS and PKK and other militant groups had been arrested in raids across Turkey that began on Friday, according to AFP.

First contingent of U.S.-trained fighters enters Syria

McClatchyDC, By Roy Gutman, July 19

Istanbul – They arrived in Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, the favored vehicle of Islamist fighters in the Middle East and South Asia. But these men, the first graduates in the faltering U.S. train-and-equip program, were traveling into Syria to fight against an extremist insurgency, the Islamic State.

The U.S. military calls them the “New Syrian force” and disclosed that they are to coordinate with rebel forces already on the ground who have a different objective – to fight the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The goal, a spokesman said, is to expand the effectiveness of all moderate forces.

Turkish news media said 54 fighters crossed in Sunday in a convoy of 30 vehicles, commanded by an ethnic Turkman colonel who’d defected from the Syrian army. McClatchy obtained photos from an anti-regime activist in Syria that showed the trucks were Toyota Hiluxes.

[…]

The “New Syrian Force” is the first contingent of a $500 million program Congress approved last year to train and equip 15,000 fighters.

How a weaker Iran got the hegemon to lift sanctions

Middle East Eye, By Gareth Porter, July 15

Now that Iran nuclear deal is completed, the attention of western news media and political commentators is predictably focused overwhelmingly on the opposition to the agreement within the US Congress and from Israel and the Saudi-led Sunni Arab coalition.

That media lens misses the real significance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is that Iran succeeded in negotiating an agreement with the United States that upheld its national right to a nuclear programme despite the obvious vast disparity in power between the two states. That power disparity between the global hegemon and a militarily weak but politically influential regional “middle power” has shaped not just the negotiating strategies of the two sides during the negotiations but, more importantly, how they came about in the first place.

The news media have adopted the Obama administration’s view that negotiations were the result of Iran responding to international sanctions. The problem with that conventional view is not that Iran wasn’t eager to get the sanctions removed, but that it was motivated to do so long before the United States was willing to negotiate.

In fact, Iran had long viewed its nuclear programme not only in terms of energy and scientific advancement but also as a way of inducing the United States to negotiate an end to the extraordinary legal status in which Iran has been placed for so long. Even during the Bill Clinton administration Iranian strategists wanted to get the United States to move toward more normal relations, but Clinton was determined to be the most pro-Israeli administration in US history, and instead imposed a complete trade embargo on Iran.

Clinton eventually offered a “dialogue” with Iran but made it clear that he had no intention of giving up the sanctions against Iran. The lesson that Iranian strategists, including then secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and now President Hassan Rouhani, learned from the Clinton years was that the United States would only negotiate the end of its sanctions against Iran if was convinced that the cost and risk of refusing to negotiate was too high.

Counterpunch: Is the Iran Nukes Deal Aimed at Crushing Putin?


US set to be India’s biggest arms supplier

TNN, By Rajat Pandit, July 13

New Delhi – The US is fast consolidating its position as India’s largest arms supplier with a flurry of new defence deals and joint projects, after having inked the expansive new 10-year defence framework in June and bagging contracts worth $10 billion over the last eight years.

Sources said the Manohar Parrikar-led defence acquisitions council (DAC), in its meeting slated for Tuesday, is likely to clear the decks for acquisition of another four P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for almost $1 billion.

“The contract negotiation committee (CNC) has completed its work. Now, the DAC approval is needed for the offsets deviation. The proposed contract will then go to the finance ministry for vetting before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the final nod,” said a source.

This “follow-on contract” comes even as the Navy has now inducted seven of the eight P-8Is ordered from Boeing in the $2.1 billion deal inked in January 2009. Based at the Arakkonam naval air station in Tamil Nadu, these radar-packed aircraft serve as “intelligent hawk-eyes” over the Indian Ocean. They are also armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to take on enemy warships and submarines.

The Times of India: 10 yrs since nuke deal, India-US on cusp of sea change: Biden

Nuland: Macedonia, Bosnia to Toe US-EU Line or Face Decades in Isolation

The US government has told Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to sign up with the European Union (EU) on its terms, or be isolated in Europe for 20 years, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland said.

Sputnik News, July 11

Washington – Nuland acknowledged that Bosnia-Herzegovina is seriously seeking association status with the EU and in June “activated its SAA [Stabilization and Association Agreement]” with the 28-nation Union.

“The United States joins the EU, the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank in urging Bosnia-Herzegovina’s leaders to make crucial reform decisions now, or risk being left behind for another twenty years,” Nuland said in prepared remarks delivered in Dubrovnik, Croatia on Friday.

“Our message to Macedonia is equally tough,” Nuland said. “[T]he major political forces must stop squabbling and get on the path to democratic reform sketched out by EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn with US support, and then move on to settle the name issue with Greece.”

However, Nuland continued, “politicians continue to put ethnic and party interests ahead of the basic social, economic and political reform needed to advance.”


US Steps-Up Pressure on Serbia to Sign Accord With Kosovo in 2015 – Nuland

The US government is putting new pressure on Serbia to cede more sovereignty to Kosovo by signing the Belgrade-Pristina Accord this year, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland stated on Friday.

Sputnik News, July 11

Washington — The Stabilization and Association Agreement is an international treaty, which when signed, will give Serbia the status of an associated state to the EU.

Among the obligations that Serbia will have to accept under the SAA will be the establishment of a free trade area and the harmonization of state laws with EU law.

“We want 2015 to be the year that advances the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue so the EU [European Union] can open chapters for Serbia and sign the SAA [Stabilization and Association Agreement] for Kosovo.”

Nuland acknowledged that the Serbian government would have to make potentially unpopular concessions to meet EU terms on the SAA, which the United States supports.

“But that will take courageous decisions in both Pristina and Belgrade. Again, together with the EU, America says: seize this moment and we will help.”

Obama says US intensifying anti-ISIL campaign in Syria

US president says ISIL will be defeated as US-led coalition bombs 19 positions in Syria and Iraq in last 24 hours.

Al Jazeera, July 7

US President Barack Obama has said that the US-led coalition battling fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) was “intensifying” its campaign against the armed group’s base in Syria.

Speaking at the Pentagon on Monday, Obama said that recent territory losses by the ISIL group show that the armed group will be defeated, but added that the fight will be long.

The US-led coalition has stepped up its efforts in Iraq and Syria, with some of the heaviest bombing since it began its strikes in September last year. At least 19 US-led coalition air strikes have been carried out in the last 24 hours.

Air raids have been carried out in 11 locations in Iraq: they are the oil town of Beiji, the cities of Fallujah, Haditha, Kirkuk, Makh-mur, Ramadi and Sinjar. Coalition strikes have also targeted eight ISIL positions in Syria: near Hasakah, Raqqa, Kobane and Aleppo.

The Conversation: Why defeating ISIL/ Daesh with military might is starry eyed idealism

US, Cuba to announce embassy openings after 50-year stalemate

RT, July 1

US President Barack Obama will announce on Wednesday that the United States has reached an agreement with Cuba to reopen embassies in their respective capitals of Washington and Havana, according to American officials.

The United States severed political ties with Cuba in 1961 after imposing an embargo on the island nation just 90 miles south of Florida a year before. Tourism to Cuba for Americans has been banned since that time. Though Cuba is still under communist rule, the Cold War mentality that has defined the relationship between the two countries over the last 50 years at last seems to be thawing.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, chief of the US interests section in Cuba, will meet Cuba’s Interim Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina in Havana on Wednesday to deliver a letter from President Obama to Cuban President Raul Castro regarding the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two nations, Cuba said in a statement on Tuesday.

Obama’s fast-track trade bill poised to clear final Senate hurdles

Los Angeles Times, By Lisa Mascaro, June 22

President Obama’s fast-track trade bill is poised to clear a procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate, all but ensuring it will win final passage this week and be sent to the White House for his signature.

Despite deep reservations from many in the president’s party, enough Democratic senators appear ready to join most Republicans to finish the legislation, which has sputtered in Congress but is a top White House priority.

“With just a little more trust, a little more cooperation, and simply voting consistently, we’ll get there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday. “We shouldn’t let this opportunity for significant bipartisan achievement slip past us.”

[…]

Fast-track, or trade promotion authority, would allow the president to assure potential trade partners that the deals they negotiate with the U.S. will be presented to Congress for a yes-or-no vote without amendment.

The administration is wrapping up talks on the emerging 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest deal of its kind, and fast-track authority would cover it and future pacts for the next president.

Fourteen Senate Democrats voted for the fast-track bill last month as part of a broader package that also included funding to continue a worker retraining program for employees who lose their jobs to overseas trade.

But their support is no longer guaranteed after the worker retraining legislation was split off by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who faced resistance from Republicans who view the Trade Adjustment Assistance program as government waste.

Harpers: Nonsense Brokers, June 12

U.S. Poised to Put Heavy Weaponry in East Europe

New York Times, By Eric Schmitt & Steven Lee Myers, June 13

Riga, Latvia — In a significant move to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe, the Pentagon is poised to store battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and other heavy weapons for as many as 5,000 American troops in several Baltic and Eastern European countries, American and allied officials say.

The proposal, if approved, would represent the first time since the end of the Cold War that the United States has stationed heavy military equipment in the newer NATO member nations in Eastern Europe that had once been part of the Soviet sphere of influence. Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine have caused alarm and prompted new military planning in NATO capitals.

The CIA Just Released Declassified Documents Related to the 9/11 Attacks

VICE News, June 12

The CIA has released declassified versions of five internal documents dealing with the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a press release sent to reporters on Friday afternoon. The documents are described as being “related to the Agency’s performance in the lead-up to the attacks.”

The release comes just before the weekend, a time when many organizations tend to “dump” news in an attempt to minimize coverage. VICE News is currently reviewing the documents in detail. The CIA describes them as including “a redacted version of the 2005 CIA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report on Central Intelligence Agency Accountability Regarding Findings and Conclusions of the Report of the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.”

The executive summary of the OIG report was released in 2007, and the CIA says it released the full report in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. The 500-page document reportedly underwent “an extensive review… in order to release information that no longer needed to be protected in the interests of national security.”

[…]

PDF versions of the documents can be found at the CIA’s online reading room.


CIA Report Says No Evidence Saudi Arabia ‘Willingly Supported’ al Qaeda Leading up to 9/11

Vice News, By Jason Leopold & Samuel Oakford, June 12

A newly declassified CIA watchdog report that probed the agency’s intelligence failures leading up to the 9/11 attacks reveals that investigators on the CIA’s 9/11 review team “encountered no evidence” that the government of Saudi Arabia “knowingly and willingly supported” al Qaeda terrorists.

Moreover, the June 2005 CIA Inspector General report’s, released Friday, said the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 “‘had made no final determinations as to the reliability or sufficiency’ regarding Saudi issues raised by its inquiry.” (A separate report released in 2004 by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, found no evidence that the government of Saudi Arabia or Saudi officials individually provided funding to al-Qaeda.)

The conclusions the CIA inspector general reached in the unredacted portion of the report, and the reference to the Joint Inquiry’s own finding, appears to contrast with longstanding claims of Saudi involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Suspicions about Saudi Arabia’s role have centered on a 28-page section of the Joint Inquiry, which was ordered classified by President George W. Bush prior to its release in 2002. For years, victims’ families, members of Congress, and former Senator Bob Graham, the co-chair of the inquiry, have called for the release of the pages, which are said to refer to FBI investigations into the attacks. Those investigations, according to individuals who have seen the pages, highlight elements of the financing that went into the orchestration of the attacks.

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