Tag: Kurds

As the impeachment drama kicks off, Jim and Greg nearly injure themselves rolling their eyes as a longtime Republican aide who is pro-impeachment suggests allowing a secret ballot vote in the Senate to improve the odds of President Trump being removed from office.  They also slam Trump for warmly welcoming Turkish President Erdogan despite his atrocities towards the Kurds and other antagonism towards the U.S.  And they cringe a bit when looking at numbers suggesting Democrats might have a chance at winning Georgia this year, although they do find a deeply satisfying silver lining.

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It’s going from bad to worse for the Kurds. I’m no military expert, but from my perspective Trump has made all the right decisions in fighting jihadists so far. This seems like a mistake we’ll pay for in the years ahead. What is the proper moral, and strategic response? Preview Open

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David French joins us for a drink today in place of Jim, who will be back on Friday.  Today, David and Greg discuss the courage of Enes Kanter, a Turkish player for the Boston Celtics.  In the wake of widespread NBA cowardice on China, Kanter continues to defy the repressive Turkish government even though it persecutes his family members and he faces threats against his life.  They also wince at President Trump’s Twitter-esque letter urging Turkish President Erdogan to seek a cease-fire with the Kurds and blast Trump for pulling back so suddenly in Syria that our own military is scrambling to get out of there.  They work in a much-needed laugh as Beto O’Rourke now admits he would have law enforcement come and take away your AR-15 and any other weapons he would ban.

At the conclusion of today’s episode, they pay tribute to the late Rep. Elijah Cummings and then remark on David’s upcoming departure from National Review to join a new venture known as The Dispatch.

Things Could Get Out of Hand


Since the three press conferences addressing Turkey, Kurds in Syria, and U.S. forces, there has been a near-miss of US soldiers. The hostile take is from Newsweek. The Department of Defense statement, on the record, gives us the facts we know from the US side.

The facts of this situation, even taken from the Newsweek post, contradict the “abandoned” narrative. That is, US forces were in an observation post within visual distance of the Turkish border, and close to some Kurdish positions, from which there may have been mortar, light artillery fire, across the border into Turkey. It is a long border, with lots of points of contact, compared to the small, shallow border section the past days’ actions and chatter concerned.

It is true both that being within a few hundred meters of an exploding artillery shell is not risk-free and that the carefully worded DoD report, suggests either just one shell or one volley of shells, since it was “explosion,” not “explosions.” Missing from the description is whether the US and Turkish forces were in direct radio contact locally. I would guess not, from the circumstances.

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In light of the Turkish offensive into Syria against Kurdish forces US options might be limited. The Turks have some leverage in any response from the White House whether it’s sanctions or drawing one more line in the sand. The Incerlik Air Base located in Adana, Turkey and NATO tactical nuclear warheads are stored on […]

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A Tale of 3 Press Conferences


POTUS DIMEFILIf you watch and listen to three sets of statements and answers by our current administration, you will get an interesting picture of our actual current policy. The first is by President Trump, answering a reporter’s off-topic question when he signed two executive orders on transparency in federal guidance and enforcement (a serious push back on the growth of an unaccountable fourth branch of government in the administrative state). The second is a Pentagon briefing on the deployment of Patriot Air Defense/Anti Missile units and two Air Force fighter squadrons to Saudi Arabia, in which both this action and comments on Syria are interesting. The third is a White House press corps briefing by Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin.

President Trump has laid out three possible courses of action in the longstanding conflict between Turkey and those Kurds living in eastern Turkey and across the border in Syria. As has been explained repeatedly elsewhere, these are not the same Kurds abandoned by George H.W. Bush and now supported in northern Iraq by President Trump. These are different groups with different politics.

The Turks have never treated their Kurdish population well. In turn, those Kurds, in the context of the Cold War, understandably turned to Moscow, as any group that was going to get outside support was going to be compatible with Soviet communist doctrine. Given all that, we should not bite on the “dirty commie” line too hard, and should remember that J. Edgar Hoover was busy trying to run the same line on black and Jewish civil rights leaders, a number of whom did turn to seek support where they might find it. All of which is to say that there ain’t no good guys in the local cast of characters, and there is a long standing quarrel with blood on both sides.

Hey, we finally we have a good martini and it only took us until Thursday!  Today, Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America appreciate a bipartisan group of lawmakers blasting the NBA for kowtowing to China. They also slam the Biden campaign for whining that the New York Times is making common cause with Breitbart.com by covering Hunter Biden’s overseas activities. And they hammer President Trump for not worrying if thousands of ISIS prisoners go free because of Turkey’s attack on the Kurds because most would only wind up in Europe again.

The search is still on for a good martini this week.  Today, Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to the Turkish military striking Kurdish targets just two days after the U.S. announced it would move forces out of the area so Turkey could attack one of our closest allies in the fight against ISIS. They also shudder at rape allegations against former “Today” show host Matt Lauer and at new revelations about the steps NBC executives took to downplay Lauer’s actions and stop journalist Ronan Farrow from releasing his Harvey Weinstein story that started the #MeToo movement. And they recoil as two NBA fans are removed from an NBA game in the U.S. for bringing signs and voicing support for Hong Kong.

We’ve got nothing but bad martinis today.  Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are frustrated by President Trump ordering the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, even as Turkey specifically says it wants us gone so it can attack our Kurdish allies who did more than anyone else in the region to confront ISIS.  Jim and Greg also swat away the NBA’s pathetic apology to China after the general manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted out that people should stand with Hong Kong.  And they groan as they see polls for the upcoming legislative races in Virginia looking very rough for Republicans.

This week on Banter, Michael Rubin joined the show to discuss the recent Kurdish referendum on independence from Iraq, the Kirkuk crisis, and the implications of an independent Kurdistan for the Middle East as well as the US. Rubin is an AEI Resident Scholar and former Pentagon official whose research focuses on the Middle East, Turkey, Iran, and diplomacy. He has written extensively on the Kurds, including the recently published monograph, Kurdistan Rising.

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America react to Bowe Bergdahl pleading guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, glad that justice is being done and not being swept under the rug in the case of the soldier who left his unit in Afghanistan and was returned by the Obama administration in exchange for five top level Taliban detainees. They also groan as Iraqi forces are now fighting with the Kurds over territory in northern Iraq when they’re supposed to be finishing off ISIS. And they unload on Newsweek for its reckless reporting, including such gems as interviewing pedophile and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert about politics and declaring the Family Research Council a hate group.

Fear and Loathing in Kirkuk


There’s trouble in the works in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. However, before we can explain what happened there over the weekend, we need to provide some background.

Kirkuk is roughly a four-hour drive north of Baghdad, and closer than that to the Iranian border. It is a complex mix of ethnic groups, with the largest being Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs. Plus Assyrians, Armenians, and a smattering of Jews.

It would be a hairy place anyway, mixing Iraqi national politics, international politics, religious politics, ethnic politics, plus internal local and tribal politics among the Kurds. Then add oil to that. The Kirkuk Field produces half of Iraqi oil experts.

The History of Mosul


I’ve never been to Mosul and so don’t have a good sense of what the city is really like. I thought, though, that the accounts I was reading of the battle to retake the city weren’t especially informative about the city’s history and significance. So I’ll try to offer some background, even though I’m not personally familiar with the city. I’m not an expert, and I may be mistaken about the details — so I’d welcome a bit of help from those of you who know the city’s history better.

mosulMosul, as you can see on the map to the right, is about 250 miles north of Baghdad. The old city was on the west bank of the Tigris, opposite the ancient city of Nineveh — the capital of the Assyrian empire, first mentioned in Genesis 10:11: “Ashur left that land, and built Nineveh.” Nineveh is part of modern-day Mosul.

Kurdistan, Yezidis, and the Strange Consensus: A Report from an Iraq Correspondent


I received this report from a correspondent who asked for anonymity. “Given Ricochet’s educated readership,” he wrote, “perhaps they might enjoy this more detailed perspective” on Kurdistan and the KRG’s lobbyists in the West. I thought it was fascinating. If you have questions about it, I’ll be happy to post his replies.


The Battle of Telskuf, the Kurds, and the Shortcomings of America’s ISIS Strategy



Drowned out in the excitement over the presidential primary yesterday was the fierce battle between coalition forces and the Islamic State in northern Iraq. With total figures still uncertain, the battle claimed the lives of dozens of Kurds and one American Navy SEAL. On May 3rd, in the majority Christian city of Telskuf, north of Mosul, ISIS launched a pre-dawn assault on unsuspecting Kurdish and Assyrian forces:

Mortar rounds and artillery began hitting front lines near Telskuf, the largely Christian town, about 4 a.m., according to Kurdish officers and members of the Christian militia that hold the ground there. After bombarding the area Tuesday, militants launched a multi-pronged attack on Telskuf at about 5:30 a.m. from three or four directions, using hundreds of fighters, commanders said. Maj. Gen. Azad Jalil, a peshmerga officer, said they breached Kurdish front lines with more than 10 car bombs, also using bulldozers to push through. The peshmerga then made a “tactical retreat” to reorganize their forces, he said. ISIS militants overran the village.

The War in Turkey that Doesn’t Make Headlines


Leman Magazine's New Year coverI know the neighborhood of today’s bombing in Istanbul, Sultanhamet, as well as my own face. Not far from the photos you saw in Tom’s post, I found my cat, the Smudge, as a tiny kitten — orphaned, starving, and dying of flea anemia. When I sat beside her, and she weakly crawled into my lap and began to purr.

I took her home, and here she is now beside me, a living connection to the many days, over so many years, that I walked through Sultanhamet — to show the famous sites to visiting friends, to stroll and talk for hours with the Turkish friends I’ve left behind and so badly miss, to shop in the covered market and the spice bazaar, to go, occasionally, for a morning run on the grounds of the Topkapı palace.

There were many terrorist attacks in Turkey when I lived there. This wasn’t the first. It won’t be the last. But I don’t think I could bear it, my heart would break, if Turkey were to suffer what Syria has. When an attack takes place on a site frequented by tourists, it makes international news. But the recrudescence of the civil war in the Southeast is the story that has the potential to tear Turkey apart, and this barely makes the news in the West at all.

Terrorism in Istanbul’s Historic District


This morning, a suicide-bomber murdered 10 people — and wounded another 15 as of this writing — in Istanbul’s Sultanmahet district. The dead apparently include Turks, Asians, Germans, and Norwegians. While there is nothing definitive yet, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the attack had “Syrian roots” and the Deputy Prime Minister said, according to one source, that the “suicide bomber is a 28-year-old of Syrian origin.” Though this neighborhood has been targeted by Kurdish and far-left terrorists before, the targeting of tourists, size of the explosion, and the government’s reaction all point to ISIS as being the more likely culprit. That said, all the usual caveats about early reporting apply.

The explosion happened next to the Obelisk of Theodosius, a 3,400-years-old, granite Egyptian obelisk brought to the city in the 4th century. It’s roughly 60 ft (18.5 m) tall and — despite three dozen centuries of exposure to the elements — its hieroglyphs look like they were carved yesterday. The obelisk sits on a Byzantine base of different material with relief carvings that adds another 20 ft (6m) to its height.


The Obelisk of Theodosius. Photograph by Tom Meyer, March 2015.

The Kurds, Mount Sinjar, and Highway 47: A Quick Guide


_86641866_030081031-1I’ve spent the morning reading conflicting reports from Mount Sinjar (also known as Shingal) and Highway 47. A lot of the reporting about this, it seems to me, would be impossible to understand without some background knowledge — or a glossary, at least — so I thought I’d be helpful and try to make what’s happening there easier to follow. Forgive me if I’ve only made it more confusing, but at least that’s in a sense more accurate, because the situation is anything but clear.

First, some maps. Sinjar, the city, is shown by the red arrow:

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 08.55.57Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 09.05.32The Sinjar Mountains are a 100-kilometer long range in northwestern Iraq. The highest segment is in Nineveh Governorate, and partly administered by Iraqi Kurdistan; the western and lower segment is in Syria, and controlled by the de facto autonomous Syrian Kurdistan, Rojava. The city of Sinjar — marked with the red arrow — is just south of the range.

Reality Check: ISIS Could Win


is-flagForeign policy experts have repeated the same sentence over and over: “There is no military solution in Syria.” Being professionally trained to automatically question and contradict any opinion held by a very large majority, I have trouble buying this.

Consider, for example, that nearly everyone in 1980 thought the Soviet Union was unstoppable and that nearly everyone in late 1999 agreed that technology stocks were a fabulous investment; we all know what happened in both of those cases. Similarly, if nearly everyone agrees that there is no military solution in Syria, I’m inclined to believe one exists. Let us briefly examine each scenario, unattractive as they may be.

The Assad/Hezbollah/Iran/Russia/Shia Axis Wins

Turkey Arrests VICE Journalists


A Turkish court leveled formal charges of terrorism at three VICE News journalists and their colleague yesterday.

The Iraqi journalist Mohammed Ismael Rasool, and two British journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, were detained late Thursday evening and taken into custody in the southeastern city of Diyarbakır. So was their driver, who was released. They’ve been accused of working for both the PKK and ISIS, prompting some foreign observers to announce that Turkey has gone “bat-[redacted] insane,” but as my fellow Turkey-watcher Erik Meyersson notes, for journalists in Turkey, especially Kurds, “this kind of Kafkaesque repression is mostly referred to as: Monday.”