Dr. Sebastian Gorka to Astroturf Protesters: You Are ‘Victims of Fake News’

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Adelle Nazarian and Edwin Mora, april 25, 2017:

GEORGETOWN, DC – An astroturf protest campaign targeted Donald Trump’s national security adviser Dr. Sebastian Gorka Monday, who appeared on a panel on cyber security at Georgetown University. Gorka branded the protesters “victims of fake news.”

Approximately 20 protesters gathered inside the hall where the event was held with signs falsely accusing Gorka of being a Nazi, a war criminal, and a fascist.

At the prestigious foreign policy event, Gorka discussed a variety of topics relevant to foreign policy and national security scholars. His remarks focused primarily on personal experiences in dealing with fake news and the manipulation of facts by the mainstream media:

“Eight out of ten times, I can read something written in the daily paper about an event that occurred the night before, and it is literally 180 degrees incorrect,” said Gorka in his remarks to the crowded room. “It is totally contrary to what happened inside the building 80 percent of the time. That’s something that has opened my eyes to the lack of true investigative journalism.”

He labeled “the idea that a 22-year-old with access to Google is a journalist” as “problematic” and noted his view that the days of classic investigative journalism, which required in-depth research, “are behind us.”

Gorka discussed his parents’ experiences fleeing both Nazis and Communists in his native Hungary and how biased journalists have manipulated the facts of his early life to create the impression that Gorka himself is a member of the Nazi and Communist organizations he fled.

Gorka is not a member of a Nazi organization and has never pledged loyalty to any such organization.

The media accusations claim a pin Gorka wears to remind him of his parents’ struggle against communists and fascists ties him to these illicit groups. When he was eight years old, Gorka’s father was awarded a medal that is associated with a military order, the ‘Hungarian Order of Heroes, Vitezi Rend,’ created after the First World War. An anti-Communist organization gave it to him, recognizing him for his resistance to fascists and Communist dictatorship.

On Monday, he explained once again the story behind the pin he wears:

My parents died 14 years ago, and in their memory, for what they suffered under the Nazis and the Communists — my father tortured in the basement of Andrássy út 60 (the secret police headquarters of the fascists first and then the Communists)–I wear that medal to remember their suffering and their resistance. And today, because I work for somebody named Donald J. Trump, that fact is used as part of a fake news propaganda campaign that brought those people in the back of the room, sadly, to a point where they are the victims of fake news.

Gorka also confronted the leftist protesters about their signs calling him an antisemite and fascist. Two of the female students wore hijabs, and one man wore garments traditionally worn by observant Jews. He tied the Jewish prayer shawl (known as Talis) over his shoulders like it was a fashionable scarf:

Every single person holding a placard to protest my parents and myself, I challenge you now: Go away and look at everything I have said an written the last 46 years of my life and find one sentence that is antisemitic or that is anti-Israeli. Because you won’t find it. You’ll find the opposite. My book Defeating Jihad, everything I’ve said on the conference circuit–in Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem–tells you why I’m in this administration. Because this is one of the most pro-Israeli administrations in U.S. history. I’m sorry for you. You are the victims of fake news. But I’ll leave with this: I do what I do because I’ve learned that there is a connective tissue between Nazis, Communists, and Jihadists; they are all the same because they are all totalitarians. And if you perpetuate fake news, you are helping the bad guys.

Gorka cited a case study from the end of the Cold War by National Defense University’s Active Members Working Group as a model on how to identify and combat fake news during the Soviet era:

He explained how this group had “as its mandate, from the highest levels in the Reagan administration, the mission to identify Soviet propaganda, illuminate its sources, and destroy it from the inside to show just how much the message was a lie.” He suggested this group’s case study could be used to similarly combat fake news propagated over social media through mediums like Telegram and Twitter.

In conclusion, Gorka said:

What we are witnessing today–whether it’s RT, whether its ISIS tweets, Telegram–none of it is new. The platforms may be new, but the concepts of propaganda, dezinformatsiyaMaskirovka, none of these are true. They are just being packaged in new and far more effective ways. And this administration, with our allies and partners, including Israel, intends to take it very, very seriously. Thank you.

None of the few demonstrators congregated would talk to Breitbart News when Edwin Mora asked them to share their position on camera. Mora worked with Gorka during the latter’s tenure as Breitbart News’s National Security editor. Instead, the protesters shared a document accusing Breitbart News of perpetrating fake news.

No protesters responded to Gorka’s request to verbally defend their protest before the panel.

Follow Adelle and Edwin on Twitter @AdelleNaz and @EdwinMora83

Also see:

Study: Genital Mutilation Imposes Segregation on Immigrants’ American Daughters

AP

Breitbart, by Dr. Susan Berry, April 24, 2017:

The imported practice of genital mutilation can segregate hundreds of thousands of American girls from their peers in mainstream American society, say two New York psychologists.

The hidden segregation, however, is being ended by President Donald Trump and his deputies, who announced mid-March a new national campaign against “Female Genital Mutilation” that is commonplace in some immigrant communities.

Genital cutting by immigrant parents “sets these [American victims] apart from the mainstream culture and may complicate their efforts to adjust to life in the United States and cause intergenerational conflict in some families,” according to Adeyinka M. Akinsulure-Smith and Evangeline I. Sicalides, the authors of “Female Genital Cutting in the United States: Implications for Mental Health Professionals.”

Immigrant “parents may consider it important for their [American] daughters to be cut, regardless of the girls’ wishes, as a way to maintain their identity with the family and its [foreign] cultural community of origin. Others may want the girls in their family to undergo FGC as a way to protect them from aspects of American culture,” according to their article published in the October 2016 issue of Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.

Female genital cutting (FGC) and female circumcision (FC) are politically correct terms for the practice of “Female Genital Mutilation.” The process removes part or all of the clitoris, or even all of the external genitalia, in female infants, children or adults. The practice is widespread in Islamic northern Africa, where the most radical versions of the process are inflicted in Somalia. In many cases, the damaged woman is made unable to provide genital lubrication, which is deemed sexually distasteful in some communities that practice FGM.

FGM is in the news because Trump’s deputies at the Department of Justice and the FBI have promised to end the practice — and have already arrested a group of Muslim doctors in Detroit for performing FGM on several American girls. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law,” said the acting U.S. Attorney in Detroit, Daniel Lemisch.

Trump’s effort to save hundreds of thousands of Americans girls from the peculiar institution replaces the say-nothing, see-nothing policy of the pro-immigration,  pro-multicultural policy imposed by former President Barack Obama.

The two New York psychologists are not political activists seeking to reduce and protect the practice as it spreads by immigration into Western Europe and the United States. Instead, they are therapists who help other experts deal with the after-effects of the imported practice.

“[I]t is our professional and ethical responsibility to be informed about this cultural practice, and to possess the awareness, knowledge, and skills to intervene,” the psychologists say.

The psychologists’ primary concern is that females who have been cut may become patients of U.S. healthcare providers who have no awareness or acceptance of the immigrant practice and may bring “unexamined opinions and attitudes” to their treatment of these females.

Their recommendation is that healthcare providers exempt themselves from the politics, and merely treat FGM as a medical issue. Providers should avoid “pathologizing the experiences of all girls and women who have undergone FGC,” while also familiarizing themselves with the legal issues and physical and psychological complications associated with the procedure, they wrote.

“A thorough understanding of these factors is fundamental to promoting appropriate care for those who have had FGC and for developing effective interventions to prevent new FGC cases in the United States where the practice is illegal,” the authors write.

Akinsulure-Smith and Sicalides attribute the rise of FGM in the United States to the increase in immigration from countries that perform the procedure:

The precipitous rise in women and girls who are affected by FGC reflects a growth in immigration to the United States from countries with high FGC prevalence rates. More specifically, 55% of U.S. women and girls at risk come from Somalia, Egypt, and Ethiopia where the prevalence rates for females ages 15–49 are 98%, 91%, and 74%, respectively (Mather & Feldman-Jacobs, 2015). Sixty percent of these women and girls live in eight states: California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington (Mather & Feldman- Jacobs, 2015).

In the United States, approximately 513,000 females are either at risk of FGM or have already been cut, an estimate that is more than double the 228,000 observed in 2000 and three times more than the 1990 estimate of 168,000, established by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to WHO, FGM has “no health benefits, only harm.” The immediate consequences of the procedure can include severe pain, excessive bleeding, fever, infections, shock, and even death. Long-term difficulties include urinary problems, sexual and childbirth complications, and psychological issues, says WHO.

Akinsulure-Smith and Sicalides downplay the ties between FGM and Islam, saying the practice is sometimes “required by faith” – though they do not mention Islam or the Muslim faith. FGM, the authors note, is also performed on females to reduce sexual desire in women, assure virginity before marriage, and to increase male sexual pleasure. Additionally, some perform the practice because a woman’s genitalia is viewed as “dirty” and “aesthetically unpleasing.”

FGM became illegal in the United States in 1996, for girls under the age of 18. The practice is viewed as “gender-based torture” and as a “human rights violation,” note the psychologists.

Initially, U.S. law “excluded cultural grounds as a way to justify the practice of FGC,” the authors note. “To circumvent this law, parents and/or guardians sent girls abroad to undergo FGC, usually during the summer months. This practice came to be known as ‘vacation cutting.’” In 2013, however, Congress outlawed the “vacation cutting” practice as well.

Since 1994, 24 states also have criminalized FGM and at least 12 states have made the practice a felony for parents who allow their daughter to undergo the procedure.

States without specific FGM laws utilize their own child protection or child abuse laws as a means of reporting the procedure, Akinsulure-Smith and Sicalides observe. They add, however, that mandated reporters – such as school personnel and healthcare providers – are “often unsure whether FGC constitutes [criminal] abuse and whether they have a legal obligation to report suspected cases of cutting.”

When female children have been cut, they are often hesitant to speak with state authorities for fear their parents or other relatives may be arrested, the authors explain.

The Trump administration Department of Justice has recently announced a national campaign to end the practice of FGM, even as the politically correct attitudes of the establishment’s media has minimized the public’s recognition of the problem among many Muslim immigrant families.

In a joint statement about the media’s failure to identify the exploitation of young girls exposed to FGM, Media Research Center president Brent Bozell and founder of anti-terror group ACT for America Brigitte Gabriel, said:

Where is the outrage? The hypocrisy is staggering. The networks, which have for years championed the causes of left-wing feminists and women’s rights, are conspicuously silent on this case and their silence is deafening. This is real exploitation of young girls and the usual suspects who ought to care have little to say about this form of torture making its way to America. This practice is illegal and immoral. The networks have an ethical responsibility to report that it’s happening here at home. If they don’t, they are guilty of aiding and abetting violence against women out of a politically correct fueled fear of offending Muslims.

Breitbart News recently reported three Detroit doctors have been arrested in what represents the first prosecution in the United States for FGM.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, owner of the Burhani Medical Center, and Drs. Fakhruddin Attar and Farida Attar have been charged in the FGM of two seven-year-old girls. Nagarwala was charged with allegedly performing the procedure on the victims, and the Attars – husband and wife – with allegedly being present during the cutting. According to the news report, Farida Attar was allegedly heard on a federal wiretap encouraging the parents of FGM victims “to deny they had brought their daughters to [the] Burhani clinic for the procedure.”

The report continues:

According to the complaint against Nagarwala, the victims’ parents brought them to the Detroit area for the gruesome procedure. The girls were told it was to be a “special girls trip.” The parents also allegedly said the cutting would “get the germs out” and that they were not to talk of what happened inside the Burhani clinic.

One of the girls later told the FBI she screamed in pain as she endured what Dr. Nagarwala called “getting a shot.” She then said she was barely able to walk as she left the clinic. Upon examination by doctors working with the FBI, both seven-year-olds were found to have genitalia that was “abnormal looking” with “scar tissue” and “small healing lacerations.”

Nagarwala was trained at Johns Hopkins University, but is reportedly the daughter of two Indian immigrants from the Bohra sect of Shia Muslims.

***

Also see:

Senior Lawmakers Urge U.S. Engagement in Libya

Libyans take part in a celebration with fireworks marking the sixth anniversary of the Libyan revolution / Getty Images

Washington Free Beacon, Natalie Johnson, April 25, 2017:

Senior lawmakers on Tuesday rejected President Donald Trump’s declaration that the United States has “no role” in Libya, citing the threat of regional instability to U.S. national security interests.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (D., Md.) said Libya’s ongoing battle over power and access to natural resources has created a permissive environment for extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Cardin, during opening remarks for a hearing assessing U.S. policy options in the war-torn nation, said it is vital to U.S. security interests that the Trump administration work with the international community and local forces to craft a political solution that creates a representative government.

“The United States must be engaged,” Cardin said. “When we don’t have representative governments … it creates a void and that void is filled by ISIS, as we’ve seen in northern Africa, and it’s filled by Russia, which we’re seeing Russia’s engagement now in Libya.”

“I think this hearing is an important indication by Congress that we do expect a role to be played,” he added.

Trump raised concerns Thursday when he rejected calls from Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni to maintain America’s “very critical” role in Libya. The United States currently is working to build political consensus around the fragile United Nations-backed government in Tripoli. Trump said during the joint press conference with Gentiloni that the U.S. priority in Libya is counterterrorism efforts to degrade ISIS.

Moscow in recent months has ramped up support for Libyan military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who controls large swaths of eastern Libya, including Benghazi. Haftar’s forces do not recognize the UN-backed Government of National Accord, posing a significant challenge to international efforts to unify the country.

Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told lawmakers Tuesday that U.S. disengagement from the embattled nation would widen the opening for Russian involvement and create conditions likely to perpetuate the spread of ISIS.

U.S. Africa Command released its 2017 posture statement in March, declaring instability in Libya and North Africa the “most significant near-term threat” to the United States and its allies in the region. The command warned that Libya’s precarious security situation has created spillover effects in Tunisia, Egypt, and most of western North Africa, enabling the flow of foreign fighters and migrants to Europe.

“The notion of the problems of Libya spilling over is really profound—we’re talking about a number of U.S. interests in the region. [It’s] really this epicenter that effects the surrounding region.” Wehrey testified.

Analysis: ‘Signs of Recovery for the Islamic State’

Henry Jackson Society, by Kyle Orton, April 22, 2017:

The operation to clear the Islamic State (IS) from its Iraqi capital, Mosul, began on 17 October and is now 188 days old. IS was announced cleared from east Mosul on 25 January, and the offensive that began on 19 February to clear the more densely-populated and difficult west Mosul has ostensibly swept IS from sixty percent of that area. Official sources claim IS now controls less than seven percent of Iraqi territory, down from forty percent in 2014. But yesterday, a car bomb struck Zuhur, the first attack of this kind in east Mosul since February, murdering at least four people. This is part of a pattern of attacks that suggests the Mosul operation itself was rushed and more importantly that IS is already recovering in liberated areas.

OUT BUT NOT DOWN

When the Mosul offensive began, there was reason to worry that the timing was more political than it was determined by facts on the ground. Towns like Qayyara and Shirqat, which had been formally cleared of jihadists and were being used as launchpads for the assault on Mosul, were under constant harassment from the rural surroundings. More important is Hawija, which IS continues to hold.

Hawija, a town of about 200,000 people, fell to IS on 16 June 2014, after Mosul collapsed on 10 June and IS swept across northern and central Iraq. Located one-hundred miles south-east of Mosul, and roughly equidistant—forty miles or so—east of Shirqat and west of Kirkuk, with Bayji and Tikrit within sixty miles to the south, Hawija sits in a prime location to cause mayhem behind the lines, and has done so. IS is able to organize attacks from Hawija, and then fall back to safe-haven in the city. Days into the Mosul operation, IS executed a major raid in Kirkuk that killed dozens of people; the jihadists that did not blow themselves up slipped back into Hawija. This has happened despite the Kurdish Peshmerga having imposed a siege last August and blocked the four city gates.

In simple military terms, Hawija should have been cleared before Mosul, and now there are new worries. The recent announcement, which might well prove untrue, that IS’s occupation of Hawija, an overwhelmingly Sunni Arab town, will soon be brought to an end by al-Hashd al-Shabi, the conglomeration of Shi’i militias where Iranian proxies are the backbone, and the Kurdish Peshmerga, would continue one of the worst aspects of the campaign against IS, namely the use of demographically inappropriate forces to cleanse local areas that has meant IS’s military losses are not political losses.

Further to the east in Iraq, on the provincial boundary line between Saladin and Diyala, there is even more trouble as documented in an important recent report by Niqash. IS’s strategic depth is in the rural areas where it rode out defeat after 2008, a lesson it has taken into its foreign wilayats like Libya. The Jalam desert to the east Samarra—abutted by the Hamrin mountains to the north that stretch east into Diyala and west to the Tigris in Ninawa—with ad-Dawr to the south-east of Tikrit is a near-perfect location for IS. It was from the Jalam desert that IS invaded into Samarra in June 2014.

“The difficult terrain and long stretches of unpopulated land that straddle several provinces make this territory excellent for hiding, or for the establishment of secret bases,” Niqash notes. “[T]he IS fighters who are locals know the caves and valleys well and they know it would be very difficult to hunt them down here, if not impossible.” From these bases, IS have already managed to cut the road between Tikrit, the administrative centre of Saladin Province, and Kirkuk City. The area between Hawija and Kirkuk is known as the “death strip”. There have been many small raids, as well as some more significant ones, such as IS demolishing the police station in Albu Khado, which killed a number of people, or the attack on a police station in the village of Nayeb. To the west, there is the mountainous Makhul area, north of Bayji, where IS attacks at will, and the Iraqis are well aware that IS cells are spread all throughout Saladin and Diyala.

One special problem the Iraqis are having is Mutaibij, a remote village about twenty miles east of Duluiyah near the Udhaim River in the Euphrates River Valley. Mutaibij was occupied by Albu Issa tribesmen, who were opposed to IS, and now the village is abandoned. Despite four sweeps, however, the Iraqi Security Forces can never capture or kill any IS members when they move in. It has “become a mysterious place,” says local policeman Ziyad Khalaf. “Every time we raid that village, we don’t find anybody there. Then a few hours later, we are attacked again and we lose men.”

In the west of Iraq, along the Euphrates River Valley, where Anbar Province borders Syria’s Deir Ezzor Province, an IS-held zone the group calls Wilayat al-Furat (Euphrates Province), the terror group now has its centre of gravity. As Raqqa comes under pressure, IS has moved the bulk of its administration to Mayadeen in eastern Syria, seventy miles up-river from al-Qaim, long a main gateway for IS jihadists flowing into Iraq from Syria. “We are always under threat from the Islamic State group,” says an Iraqi border guard. “The danger doesn’t end when we arrive at our barracks. … [W]e are continuously losing men to the IS attacks. There are not enough soldiers or weapons to confront an enemy like this. They know that we are weak and they know the government is negligent.” Unlike the areas mentioned above, this desert wilderness has not yet even been nominally cleared and it remains to be seen if it can be. Until then, IS is able to use this base to strike at areas that have been cleared, like Rutba and Heet and devastated cities like Fallujah and Ramadi, with bombings and assassinations.

HISTORY AS A GUIDE TO THE FUTURE

In 2007-08, IS had been politically isolated and militarily driven from its cities by the Surge and Sahwa. Throughout 2010, the organization’s leadership structure was nearly destroyed. Yet in 2011, the IS movement was into a recovery—so much so it dispatched operatives into Syria to form a secret branch. By 2013, even as it underwent a schism with its Syrian wing, IS had nearly eliminated the Sahwa and launched a campaign of terrorism, particularly against the prisons, that freed important operatives, and seriously destabilized the Iraqi government. The heavy-handed reaction of the government, and its increased reliance on Iran, only fed IS. How had IS recovered in just five years?

Western inattentiveness was certainly part of it: the belief the Surge was a done deal rather than a process to be maintained. The political disengagement after 2009 allowed the worst, most sectarian and authoritarian instincts of the Iraqi Prime Minister free rein, polarizing the Sunni community, and IS reaped the benefits of that. IS did also realize it had made mistakes; it reassessed some tactics, especially in dealing with the tribes, though maintained remarkable continuity in ideology.

Still, the major part of the answer to IS’s resilience lies, as Craig Whiteside has written, in its deeply bureaucratic structure and strategic outlook that gives it the ability to wage a Mao-style revolutionary warfare. IS has proven capable of moving through the three stages: an infiltration and building stage by terror and inducement; expansion with terrorist and insurgent tactics; and then into the decisive phase of governance and state administration. Just as importantly, IS can move back through the stages when necessary. [emphasis added]

This means IS’s loss of territory should not be seen as the sole measure of how this war is going. What is needed in a revolutionary war is legitimacy over the long-term; if military defeats contain political victories, they can be absorbed, which is why IS has chosen simply to retreat in most areas before the attacks on its capitals. Fallujah was a classic case: IS held about two-thirds of the city; after evidence of atrocities by the Shi’a militias appeared, giving IS a political win, it pulled out within five days. The U.S.’s narrow focus on defeating IS, with the mistaken emphasis on when IS is defeated rather than how, has meant supporting Iranian-run Shi’a militias in Iraq and the PKK in Syria, playing into IS’s hands, legitimizing the group even as it loses territory, and assisting IS becoming a global movement that can mobilize its supporters abroad for external attacks.

The holding of a specific territory has never been the basis of IS’s legitimacy. Over the last year, IS has crystallized this view that the caliphate is more a cause than a destination, presenting the impending loss of its twin capitals, Mosul and Raqqa, as merely one stage in a cycle, part of the travails of the believers—a gift from god, indeed—to purify the herd before final victory. After inflicting terrible losses on the infidels, the jihadists will “retreat into the desert” temporarily, as they did last time only with hideouts stretching into Syria this time as well, and come back stronger, IS says. Given the conditions—no major U.S. troop presence on the ground; massive destruction, displacement, and persecution in the Sunni areas; heightened sectarianism; dysfunctional political systems all across the Fertile Crescent—IS’s belief that trends are on its side even more than in 2008 cannot be dismissed as self-serving delusion. In some areas those trends toward IS’s recovery are already becoming a reality.

Turkish jets strike Kurdish fighters in Syria, Iraq’s Sinjar

A U.S. military commander (R) walks with a commander (C) from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as they inspect the damage at YPG headquarters after it was hit by Turkish airstrikes in Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria April 25, 2017. REUTERS/ Rodi Said

Reuters, by Isabel Coles and John Davison, April 25, 2017:

Turkish planes bombed Kurdish fighters in Iraq’s Sinjar region and northeast Syria on Tuesday, killing at least 20 in a widening campaign against groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party.

A Turkish military statement said around 70 militants were killed in the operations inside the two neighboring states.

The air strikes in Syria targeted the YPG, a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are backed by the United States and have been closing in on the Islamic State bastion of Raqqa.

The Turkish raids showed the challenges facing U.S.-led attempts to defeat Islamic State in Syria and risk increasing tension between NATO allies Washington and Ankara over Kurdish combatants who have been crucial in driving back the jihadists.

In Washington, the State Department said it was deeply concerned by the air strikes, which were not authorized by the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is part of the coalition of more than 60 countries.

“We have expressed those concerns with the government of Turkey directly,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters on a conference call. “These air strikes were not approved by the coalition and led to the unfortunate loss of life of our partner forces,” he added.

Toner said the strikes hurt the coalition’s efforts to go after the militants. “We recognize their concerns about the PKK, but these kinds of actions frankly harm the coalition’s efforts to go after ISIS and frankly harm our partners on the ground who are conducting that fight.”

A U.S. military officer accompanied YPG commanders on a tour of the sites hit near Syria’s frontier with Turkey later on Tuesday, a Reuters witness said, demonstrating the close partnership.

The YPG said in a statement its headquarters in Mount Karachok near Syria’s frontier with Turkey had been hit, including a media center, a radio station, communications facilities and military institutions.

“As a result of the barbaric strikes by the Turkish warplanes at dawn today against the YPG center … 20 fighters were martyred and 18 others wounded, three of them critically,” said spokesman Redur Xelil.

Ilham Ahmed, a senior Kurdish politician who co-chairs the political wing of the SDF, said they wanted the United States to provide aerial protection against Turkey.

The Turkish military said the two regions it struck around 2 a.m. (2300 GMT) had become “terror hubs” and the aim of the bombardment was to prevent the PKK sending weapons and explosives for attacks inside Turkey.

Designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, the PKK has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state for Kurdish autonomy. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, most of them Kurds.

Turkish security sources said 13 PKK militants had been killed on Tuesday in operations backed by the air force in the largely Kurdish southeast of Turkey. Two Turkish soldiers were also killed when a roadside bomb planted by the PKK blew up in Sirnak province.

“NEW QANDIL”

Turkey has regularly bombed the mountainous border area between Iraq and Turkey where PKK militants are based since a ceasefire broke down in July 2015. But Tuesday’s raid was the first time Turkish forces have targeted its affiliate in the northwestern Sinjar area.

The PKK established a presence in Sinjar, bordering Syria, after coming to the aid of its Yazidi population when Islamic State militants overran the area in the summer of 2014 and killed and captured thousands of members of the minority faith.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said he will not allow Sinjar, around 115 km (70 miles) from the Turkish border, to become a “new Qandil”, referring to a PKK stronghold in Iraq near the borders with Turkey and Iran.

The presence of a PKK affiliate in Sinjar is also rejected by Kurdish authorities who run their own autonomous region in northern Iraq and enjoy good relations with Turkey.

Five members of Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces, which are also deployed in Sinjar, were killed, and nine wounded in one of the Turkish air strikes, according to the peshmerga ministry, apparently by accident.

It called the attack “unacceptable” but blamed the PKK for being there and demanded the group withdraw from Sinjar.

Also see:

The Road to Defeating the Islamic State Runs through Kurdistan

American Thinker, by Sherkoh Abbas and Robert Sklaroff April 21, 2017:

Now that President Trump concluded that the Syrian gas attack “crossed many, many lines” and reacted accordingly, he must formulate a battle-plan to convert dynamic “talk” into ongoing “walk.”

In the process, he should recognize that it is in America’s best interest to recognize Kurdistan as a sovereign state and to deduce how to proceed thereafter based upon the historic, military, economic, religious and political implications of this overdue stance.

Its immediate impact would be felt in the Pentagon, as it plans how to defeat the Islamic State, but its long-term import can provide a template as to how to remodel the Middle East to maximize the interests of the United States, American allies, and long-suffering Middle Eastern peoples.

And it would serve as the culmination of regional battle plans we have proposed for almost a decade: in 2008, we focused upon how to confront the major source of global terrorism, and in 2015, we demonstrated why the United States cannot evade this trouble-spot.  In 2013, we simply concluded that the Kurds can lead a reborn Syria, at peace with all of her neighbors, and in 2014, we suggested thatNATO must help the Kurds now.

Historically, the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres was one of 35 treaties addressing the disposition of the former Ottoman Empire following World War I.  It was signed by the Ottomans, French, British, Italians, and Armenians.

Unfortunately, the Turks reneged after initially having accepted it, leading to its being supplanted by the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne that officially settled the conflict.  It was signed by Turkey, Greece, Italy, Japan, and Great Britain.

The former advocated for a Kurdish referendum to decide its fate, which was to include the Mosul Province, per Section III, Articles 62-64.  The latter defined the borders of the modern Turkish Republic.

Thus, the unfinished business created by the former should yield re-establishment of an independent Kurdistan in the Syrian-Iraqi region.  To accommodate the latter, acknowledged, would be a regional diaspora in Eastern Turkey and northwestern Iran, thereby resolving presumed vague territorial claims.

Yet, following defeat of the Islamic State, the only superpower that could subsequently protect the Kurds (and Kurdish Yazidis) from Turkish, Iranian, Russian, and Syrian attack is America.

And the only way to prompt Moscow to act to oust Iran from Syria is for America to ante up and – functioning as a player who no longer is following from behind – to encourage implementation of a Grand Plan to end this half-decade civil war by creating key spheres of influence:

Russia would legitimize its military presence along the Mediterranean, while America would both provide a buffer between Damascus and the Golan Heights (in southern Syria) and protect the Kurdistan region of Syria (currently and historically heavily populated by Kurds) south of Turkey from the Mediterranean Sea to the Tigris River (in northern Syria).

Indeed, it may be the pendency of this Grand Plan that explains both why President Trump had avoided criticizing President Putin and why relocation of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has been delayed.

In any case, militarily, by introducing troops into Syria in conjunction withOperation Inherent Resolve, America would help create safe zones to which Syrian refugees could be relocated (from Europe, Turkey, and Jordan), within which they could be able to work with non-Islamists to found a country led by freedom-loving Kurds and to defend it against barbaric terrorists.

Two constituencies would have to become convinced of the wisdom of assuming this limited leadership role: myriad Kurdish factions and American public opinion.

The former would have to adopt a unified structure that maximizes its independence from foreign influences, and the latter would have to be educated as to how the United States would benefit from achieving stability in this volatile region.

Pivotal would be creation of a coalition government composed solely of Kurds who share Western values, thereby precluding inter-Kurdish conflict as occurred in the 1990s in Iraq.

Under American leadership – respecting “facts on the ground” – the pro-Assad YPG (“People’s Protection Units”) in the northeast would join with the pro-American KurdNAS (“Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria”) in the northwest to create a solitary administrative unit.

Positive public opinion could be mustered from Europeans (and their governments) to gain support from the NATO alliance, for they are increasingly recognizing that many restless refugees may be “overstaying their welcome.”

It would then be easier to muster domestic support for this limited incursion – already presaged by the presence of  about 5,000 special forces in the arena – behaviorally answering Iran’s “slap America in the face” threat.

This region would be contiguous with the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq – that some feel should have become an independent entity after the Gulf War – and, thus, could subsequently become the Kurdish homeland envisioned a century ago.

Re-establishing Kurdistan would resolve the agitation of the PKK (“Kurdistan Workers’ Party”) in eastern Turkey, for the Turkish Kurds would constitute a diaspora that would no longer rebel against Ankara.

Sensitivity to this concern were reflected by delay in American provision ofheavy armaments to the Kurds, who are leading the assault on Rakka, until after the upcoming Turkish referendum, a posture that perhaps was enhanced by recapitulation of the demand that Ankara release an American pastor.

American’s military and diplomatic moves during the past fortnight – as also detailed at the DebkaFile – are consistent with these strategic goals, including U.S. helicopters having dropped Kurdish and Arab fighters west of Raqqa, and Secretary of State Tillerson having met with embattled Russians and Islamist Turks.

Thereafter, absent Iranian involvement, Turkey suddenly ended its “Euphrates Shield” invasion of Syria, and the Syrian army and rebel groups signed an agreement that will allow an estimated 60,000 people to depart from four besieged areas of the country.

Any residual Turkish resistance to this negotiated outcome would be resolved by providing President Erdoğan the corner of Syria that encompasses the Tomb of Suleyman Shah – who was the grandfather of Osman I (d. 1323/4), the founder of the Ottoman Empire – that arguably triggered his military to invade.  He would no longer feel compelled to purchase missiles from the Russians.

The exit strategy could, unfortunately, allow secular President Assad to remain in power if elected in a referendum conducted within a shrunken country, for myriad governmental and non-governmental militias would be left to determine the character of the resulting entity, including Christian forces.

Unfortunately, the Alawite-Russian bond has strengthened following ex-President Obama’s initial failure to honor his “red line” pledge and his ongoing blind neo-isolationism.

Kurdistan’s oil reserves and ingenuity – born of its sustained ancient culture – would allow her to continue to flourish economically, American support for this entity would undermine claims of anti-Muslim religious posturing, and the outcome could help resolve longstanding political conflicts such as friction between Baghdad and Erbil and conflict among myriad Kurdish factions.

Thus, at long last, America must recognize Kurdistan and, by serving as midwife for a new country, would defeat the Islamic State and obtain both immediate and long-term dividends.

Kurds would become the buffer for Europe and America’s allies in the region by interdicting Iran’s dream of creating a Shia Crescent to the Sea and Turkey’s aspiration to recreate an Ottoman Empire.  American inactivity would constitute a lost opportunity that might become irretrievable.

Sherkoh Abbas is president of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria.  Robert Sklaroff is a physician-activist.

U.S. missile strikes, rebel training in Syria re-energize a refined army against Assad

The author of a study calls the Free Syrian Army “the cornerstone of Syria’s moderate opposition component.

The Washington Times, by Jacob Wirtschafter and Gilgamesh Nabeel, April 24, 2017:

CAIRO — In the ramshackle town of Atareb, a Free Syrian Army bastion 15 miles north of Aleppo, Maj. Anas Abu Zaid said he has looted Russian rockets, American-supplied anti-tank missiles and other firepower to hold off the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

He says it’s time to move on.

“We were facing airstrikes on a daily basis, but now some civilians are coming back to Atareb,” said Maj. Abu Zaid. “We are working to put in place civil governance for the town and even rebuilding some houses.”

His optimism reflects an energy that has infused the once-faltering rebel force in the wake of missile attacks that President Trump ordered on a Syrian air force base this month following Mr. Assad’s suspected use of chemical weapons on civilians.

Analysts say it doesn’t take a lot to tip the balance from one side or another in Syria’s grinding conflict, which is why the U.S. missile strike, limited as it was, had such an impact, said Alberto Fernandez, a retired State Department counterterrorism officer who is the go-to authority on capabilities and limitations of the multiple rebel groups in Syria.

Add to that the fact that the much-derided U.S. effort to train the Free Syrian Army fighters is starting to pay dividends on the battlefield, boosted by substantial financial aid from wealthy Persian Gulf emirates, Mr. Fernandez said, “A war that has been going on so long is basically a war of attrition and exhaustion, and all parties are being worn down.”

Mr. Fernandez, now president of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute, said, “Those that remain from each part, unit or entity are the fittest, the most clever, the most savage and the most capable. So the question is: Who is going to be the last man standing?”

“Too often, [the FSA has] been written off, and they shouldn’t be,” he said. “On the other hand, they have been limited — like everyone else — in what they have been able to do, so far.”

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, wrote in a lengthy study that the Brookings Institution released in November that the FSA was far better than its reputation suggests and has evolved into an effective fighting force while retaining a base of popular support that few of its rivals can match.

“By late 2016, the FSA had come to represent an expansive, socially and symbolically powerful but complex umbrella movement, composed of dozens of semi-autonomous armed opposition groups that are united by the original moderate ideals of Syria’s revolution,” Mr. Lister concluded.

He called the FSA “the cornerstone of Syria’s moderate opposition component.”

“For the U.S. and allied countries seeking an eventual solution to the crisis in Syria, the FSA’s military preeminence does not necessarily have to be the sole objective, but sustaining its ability to represent opposition communities is of crucial importance given its mainstream positions,” Mr. Lister said.

Maj. Abu Zaid was one of the Free Syrian Army officers selected by the Pentagon in 2015 for a U.S. program to boost moderate forces after previous training programs faltered.

In February, that effort reaped results when, with help from the Turks, Free Syrian Army forces took over almost 1,250 miles of territory from the Islamic State group on Syria’s northern border.

“The Americans made it clear that the regime was not the world’s priority, and the issue was defined as terrorism,” said the major, who added that Mr. Assad’s behavior since then has proved that the U.S. training was worth the cost. “With the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, Assad reminded them he was the biggest terrorist.”

Mr. Assad’s forces were responsible for more than 90 percent of the 207,000 civilian casualties in Syria from March 2001 through February 2017, according to the Violations Documentation Center, a monitoring group working with human rights activists inside and outside Syria.

Assad’s weaknesses

Free Syrian Army fighters insisted that the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun revealed Mr. Assad’s fundamental weaknesses while highlighting their own stamina as a fighting force.

“His only way to defeat the people is by punishing civilians with these weapons to put pressure on them to make local truces, forcing them to leave,” said Maj. Issam Al Reis, a 41-year-old spokesman of the Free Syrian Army’s southern front near the Jordanian border. Pro-Assad forces “don’t have enough manpower to defend their front lines.”

Despite reports in the second half of last year that Mr. Assad’s forces, backed by Russian and Iranian support, had scored some major victories, facts on the ground support the rebels’ confidence.

Analysts at Omran Center for Strategic Studies, an independent think tank in the United Arab Emirates, said that despite Russian and Iranian backing, the Free Syrian Army controls almost 17,700 square miles inside the country, compared with less than 14,000 square miles in 2015.

Northeast of Damascus, Free Syrian Army forces briefly occupied the towns of Qaboun and Barzeh. The wins were ultimately reversed by the regime and Russian airstrikes, but they were a surprise to those who had written off the rebel group as irrelevant to Syria’s future after their defeat in Aleppo late last year.

“Thanks to the Russian brutality, we tended to think a month or two ago that Assad had prevailed and that he can do whatever he likes,” said Mordechai Kedar, a Syria specialist at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv. “I would not repeat that assessment today.”

As the civil war continues, the insurgents’ success should help them garner more aid from the West, said Fahad Almarsy, a former Free Army spokesman who now leads a loosely affiliated political organization in Paris called the National Salvation Front.

“The United States and Israel can target [Lebanese] Hezbollah and Iranian forces propping up Assad in and around Damascus and help the Free Army advance and clear Syrian territory of foreign fighters,” he said.

While most of the Islamic State’s losses in its Syrian base stem from Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, who now control 20 percent of Syria, the group’s links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey bar them from becoming close U.S. allies, said Ayman Abdul Nour, an early opponent of Mr. Assad and a leader of Syria’s exiled Christian community.

“The Free Syrian Army is now positioned as America’s best bet if Washington wants to see a unified or at least a federal Syria,” Mr. Abdul Nour said in a telephone interview from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The rebels said they intend to keep up the pressure on Mr. Assad. Their “Victory Army” in west-central Syria recently turned their guns on the regime’s Hama Military Airport, using Russian missiles to destroy a Russian-made fighter jet. Like the American missile strike, which destroyed six Mig-23s at the Al-Shayrat Air Force base, the attack was designed to downgrade the size and shorten the reach of Mr. Assad’s air force.

Refugees from regime-controlled areas, meanwhile, are joining rebel enclaves committed to Mr. Assad’s downfall.

“The people suffer exhaustion from the war, but they are still loyal to the Free Army,” said Kamal Bahbough, a 36-year-old physician in the besieged town of Al Rastan, about 14 miles north of Homs. “The Free Syrian Army soldiers are the sons of this region.”

Gilgamesh Nabeel reported from Istanbul.