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Assad troops enter northeast Syria after Russia-backed deal with Kurds
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 04:44:38 -0400

Assad troops enter northeast Syria after Russia-backed deal with KurdsBashar al-Assad’s forces began entering northeast Syria in large numbers for the first time in years on Monday after the West’s Kurdish allies agreed to a Russian-brokered deal to try to hold off a Turkish onslaught.  US President Donald Trump appears to have agreed to a Congressional plan to sanction Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and all of the Turkish president’s top ministers, a move that would infuriate Ankara and inflame US-Turkey relations.  Fears were also rising over an Islamic State (Isil) resurgence as it emerged that US forces had failed to secure dozens of the most hardened jihadist fighters and the first known British member of Isil escaped Kurdish custody.   Forces loyal to the Syrian regime have started arriving in the Kurdish-held province of Hasakah and Assad’s fighters are expected to start moving into key cities along the Syrian-Turkish border over the next 48 hours.  The regime’s black-and-red flag was raised over government buildings in Hasakah and the nearby city of Qamishli for the first time in seven years, according to Syrian state media.  Syrian regime forces are pictured as they patrol a street on the western entrance of the town of Tal Tamr in the countryside of Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province on October 14, 2019 Credit: AFP The Russian deal, agreed to by the Kurds in desperation after they were abandoned by Mr Trump, offers Assad an unexpected opportunity to reassert his authority over large swathes  of northeast Syria.  It likely also marks the end of Kurdish autonomy in the stretch of northeast Syrian they called “Rojava”, where Kurdish officials have governed independently from Damascus since 2012.  “The betrayal process is officially completed," a Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) official said of the US withdrawal. The SDF said that under the agreement Kurdish and Syrian regime troops would join forces to drive back the Turkish invasion. However, it seems likely that Russia will broker a broader agreement to avoid a clash between Turkey and the Assad regime.   It is not clear if Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies will continue advancing into Syria now that Assad's soldiers have entered the area.  Turkey - Syria map The Pentagon said on Sunday that it was withdrawing all 1,000 American forces from northern Syria. But US media reported the Trump administration was preparing to pull its troops out of the country entirely, with the exception of small garrison in the southern town of al-Tanf to deter Iran. If the US does mount a fullscale withdrawal it will also force the retreat of British and French special forces, who are dependent on American support to continue operating inside Syria.  Meanwhile, Mr Trump signalled on Sunday night that would give into pressure from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to impose sanctions on Turkey as punishment for the offensive against the Kurds. Mr Trump said he was speaking to Lindsey Graham, a hawkish Republican senator and avowed Erdoğan critic, about “about imposing powerful sanctions on Turkey”. Mr Graham has laid out a plan that would sanction Mr Erdoğan’s personal assets and those Turkey’s foreign and defence minister, as well as blocking arms sales and military equipment to Turkey.   Sen. Lindsey Graham Credit: AP It is not clear if Mr Trump has agreed to those sanctions specifically but if the final policy is even close to Mr Graham’s proposal it will infuriate Turkey and could lead to the cancellation of Mr Erdoğan’s scheduled visit to Washington next month.  Mr Trump has so far show little appetite for sanctioning Turkey but he faces little choice but to go along with sanctions that have overwhelming support in Congress. A Western diplomat said the White House believes Congress would override any effort by Mr Trump to veto the sanctions.  The situation in northeast Syria collapsed into chaos so quickly that US special forces did not have time to execute a plan to seize around 60 of the top Isil fighters in Kurdish custody, according to the New York Times.  US commandos planned to take the prisoners from the Kurds and move them to Iraq but were unable to as the roads of northeast Syria were flooded with refugees and military vehicles while Turkish airstrikes rained down.  It is not known if any British fighters were among the 60 men on the US list. America has already taken custody of Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh, the two surviving members of the “Beatles” group of of alleged British torturers.      Meanwhile, Tooba Gondal, a 25-year-old who went to Syria and is alleged to have recruited other British women into Isil, became the first known UK member of the jihadist group to escape. Ms Gondal was among around 800 women and children who broke free from a Kurdish camp in Ain Issa on Sunday when Turkish shells fell nearby. She texted family in the UK “I am free” and told them she was sleeping on the street of a nearby with her children, according to ITV. Several other British women are believed to have escaped from the camp. All face a deeply uncertain fate as Assad’s forces take control of the area.


Brexit hangs in the balance as EU demands more British concessions
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 04:29:39 -0400

Brexit hangs in the balance as EU demands more British concessionsLONDON/LUXEMBOURG, Oct 14 (Reuters) - A deal to smooth Britain's departure from the European Union hung in the balance on Monday after diplomats indicated the bloc wanted more concessions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said a full agreement was unlikely this week. After three years of crisis in London and tortuous negotiations with the EU, a crucial week of last-ditch talks could decide whether Brexit is orderly, acrimonious or delayed yet again. Johnson says he wants an exit deal with the EU to allow an orderly departure on Oct. 31 but that if one is not possible he will lead the United Kingdom out of the club it joined in 1973 without a deal, though a law demands he delay.


The Latest: Turkey signals imminent assault against Manbij
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 04:22:50 -0400

The Latest: Turkey signals imminent assault against ManbijTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has signaled that Turkish troops and their Syrian opposition allies are ready to launch an assault on the Syrian-Kurdish held city of Manbij. Earlier, Turkish television reports said Turkey's forces were preparing for an operation on Manbij and were positioned at the city's edge.


Britain, EU enter make-or-break Brexit week
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 04:19:40 -0400

Britain, EU enter make-or-break Brexit weekBritain and the European Union on Monday entered a pivotal week that will determine if they are still on course to reach amicable divorce terms -- and when Brexit might finally occur. EU leaders will then meet on Thursday and Friday for a summit held under the pressures of the October 31 Brexit deadline just two weeks away. Technical talks -- variously described as "intense" or "constructive" -- are continuing but few familiar with the process can point to progress on the decisive issue of British Northern Ireland's place in the EU customs zone.


Syrian army moves to confront Turkish forces as US withdraws
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 04:01:58 -0400

Syrian army moves to confront Turkish forces as US withdrawsSyria's army deployed near the Turkish border on Monday, hours after Syrian Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a deal with Damascus to help them fend off Turkey's invasion. The announcement of a deal between Syria's Kurds and its government is a major shift in alliances that came after President Donald Trump ordered all U.S. troops withdrawn from the northern border area amid the rapidly deepening chaos.


Johnson Stumbles in Bid for Brexit Deal as EU Demands Answers
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 02:48:34 -0400

Johnson Stumbles in Bid for Brexit Deal as EU Demands Answers(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson’s attempt to secure a Brexit deal ran into trouble after the European Union warned the talks were still a long way from a breakthrough and the British prime minister’s political allies distanced themselves from his plans. The pound fell.After a weekend of intensive negotiations in Brussels, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told a meeting of envoys on Sunday that the U.K.’s proposals for breaking the deadlock over the Irish border lacked detail and risked leaving the single market vulnerable to fraud, officials said. The unionist party that backs Johnson’s minority Conservative government in London also raised concerns.With talks due to continue in Brussels on Monday, a spokesman for Johnson said “significant work” was still needed before a deal can be done.The Frenzied Fortnight That’s Set to Seal the Fate of BrexitNegotiators are now in a race against time to sketch out an accord for EU leaders to endorse at a summit that starts on Thursday. Johnson wants an agreement at that gathering so that members of the U.K. Parliament can vote to approve or reject it in a special session on Saturday. That way, he may just be able to avoid being forced to delay Britain’s departure beyond the Oct. 31 deadline, which he has vowed to meet.The next 48 hours will be crucial, with the bloc wanting to know by Wednesday how the negotiations are to proceed. If Barnier’s talks founder, EU leaders will have to decide whether to abandon them and move on to the question of whether to allow Britain to delay its departure. Or, if there’s still a chance of a breakthrough, they may hold another emergency summit shortly before Brexit day, according to officials in Brussels.The prime minister told his cabinet on Sunday that a deal with Brussels is still possible. But any agreement would still have to be ratified by the U.K. Parliament, which will be re-opened by Queen Elizabeth II on Monday. Johnson, who lacks a majority, will be vulnerable to attempts to oust him or reject any Brexit deal he reaches. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn warned on Sunday that he was unlikely to support any deal agreed by Johnson.Early on Monday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid announced a post-Brexit budget for Nov. 6 less than a week after the U.K. is expected to leave the bloc. That budget could be a pre-election spending spree or the way government is going to deal with a no-deal Brexit. Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon told BBC radio the government “is making it up as they go along” with no guarantee the nation will have left the bloc by Oct. 31.The obstacle the negotiators are grappling with is the thorny question of how to ensure there is no need for checkpoints to inspect goods crossing the border between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K. region of Northern Ireland after Brexit.Last week, Johnson put forward plans to take Northern Ireland out of Europe’s customs union and give Stormont, its power-sharing assembly, a veto over the arrangement. EU officials say both of these are hugely problematic.Johnson’s OfferThe U.K. has softened its position on the veto and has proposed a complex customs solution that would see Northern Ireland leave the EU’s customs union but still adhere to its rules. The U.K. wants to be able to track goods entering Northern Ireland but treat them differently depending on where they are due to end up, two officials said.That may incur the wrath of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party -- which is in a formal agreement to support Johnson’s government and influences how a significant number his euro-skeptic Conservative MPs vote. DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds told Italy’s La Repubblica on Saturday that the party would reject any solution that would weaken Northern Ireland’s custom ties to the U.K.In Brussels on Sunday, Barnier updated envoys from EU governments on the progress in the talks, which re-started in earnest on Friday. He said the latest version of Johnson’s customs proposal was untested, risked undermining the EU’s single market by leaving it vulnerable to fraud, and was unlikely to be nailed down in the next few days, according to officials.If talks break down, Johnson is required under a new law to delay Brexit, something that he has vowed to avoid. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker indicated on Sunday that he would approve another delay, if the British side asked for it.(Adds date of budget.)\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson.To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Edward Evans, Tim RossFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Brexit Bulletin: Not Good Enough
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 02:33:09 -0400

Brexit Bulletin: Not Good EnoughBrexit is 17 days away.(Bloomberg) -- Sign up here to get the Brexit Bulletin in your inbox every weekday.Today in Brexit: British negotiators are running out of time to convince the European Union that they have a viable Brexit plan.What’s happening? After an about-turn at the end of last week, Boris Johnson’s chances of sealing a Brexit deal with the European Union are hanging in the balance once again. The next 48 hours will be crucial, Bloomberg’s Ian Wishart reports, with the bloc wanting a resolution by Wednesday at the latest.Despite intensive negotiations over the weekend, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned a meeting of EU envoys on Sunday that U.K. proposals are not yet good enough to be the basis for an agreement. Disagreement still remains about how to break the deadlock over the Irish border, where the issue of customs remains a problem. A spokesman for Johnson said “significant work” was still needed.It leaves the U.K. in a race against time to reach a deal for EU leaders to sign at a summit that starts on Thursday. Johnson wants an agreement that he can put to a vote in a special session of Parliament in London on Saturday. (Even though that’s no cakewalk either: Bloomberg’s Rob Hutton surveyed the Westminster battle lines over the weekend.) If there’s no agreement, a recent U.K. law requires the prime minister to ask for an extension to the current Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.Almost six months after the EU handed the U.K. a Brexit extension and warned “don’t waste this time,” the long-anticipated October crunch is now upon us. Former Theresa May aide Nick Timothy forsees “cries of anger, howls of anguish and claims of betrayal” — from Remainers. Whatever happens in the next 17 days, British and European politics will look quite different on the other side.Today’s Must-ReadsWe’re heading into a frenzied fortnight in the run-up to Oct 31. Tim Ross explains how the next two weeks could unfold. Many world-famous British brand names are failing or struggling badly. They won’t be helped by Brexit, Katie Linsell and Thomas Buckley write for Bloomberg Businessweek. Johnson’s Tories could be on the cusp of a small majority in any upcoming election, academic and polling expert John Curtice writes in The Times.If you’re enjoying the Brexit Bulletin, or if you think we could do better, we’d love to hear your views. Please take a few minutes to fill in our survey.Brexit in BriefWhat Happened at the Weekend? | Observer readers had barely digested the newspaper’s report of increased talk of a new Brexit referendum when Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News he still believes a general election should come first. (Though Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey contradicted her leader on the BBC moments later.)Anything Else? | Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg warmed Telegraph readers up for Brexit concessions, while former Chancellor Philip Hammond denied a Mail on Sunday report that he is heading a “plot” to delay the divorce. Over the water, RTE’s Europe Editor Tony Connelly took a deep-dive into last week’s events — and what they mean.Johnson v May | Boris Johnson’s Brexit proposals would leave the British economy worse off than the deal agreed to by his predecessor Theresa May, according to a new report by academic think tank The UK in a Changing Europe.“Beyond Eye-Watering” | Separately, the Confederation of British Industry has a report out today on Labour’s plans to nationalize key companies and services. The projected cost? Almost $250 billion (£200 billion.)Energy Concerns | Questions remain over the viability of Ireland’s 12-year-old single electricity market (SEM) in the years after Brexit, Olivia Konotey-Ahulu and Jeremy Hodges report. Problems could mount further down the line because of the market’s large reliance on supplies from power plants in the rest of the U.K.Prayer Services | U.K. services companies face a slew of new rules after Brexit and could find themselves in breach of the law if they are unprepared, Jill Ward and Bryce Baschuk report.State Opening | A new parliamentary session opens on Monday with the traditional Queen’s Speech. Legislative plans due to be announced include a Brexit Withdrawal Bill as well as healthcare investment, measures to tackle violent crime and increase wages for the lowest paid. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid is due to deliver his annual budget on Nov. 6.On the Markets | The pound slid from near a three-month high on news from Brussels, dropping as much as 0.6% against the dollar. Sterling traded at $1.2597 as of 7:08 a.m. in London after climbing to $1.2707 on Friday.Want to keep up with Brexit?You can follow us @Brexit on Twitter, and listen to Bloomberg Westminster every weekday. It’s live at midday on Bloomberg Radio and is available as a podcast too. Share the Brexit Bulletin: Colleagues, friends and family can sign up here. For full EU coverage, try the Brussels Edition.For even more: Subscribe to Bloomberg All Access for our unmatched global news coverage and two in-depth daily newsletters, The Bloomberg Open and The Bloomberg Close.The Bloomberg Breakaway CEO Summit returns to London on November 12, with Bloomberg  TV and radio co-anchor Carol Massar. Join 100+ CEOs and founders for a day of expert-led workshops, compelling keynotes and news-making interviews to help scale up and transform your organization. Apply here to become a member and attend the London summit this November.To contact the author of this story: Adam Blenford in London at ablenford@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Kay at ckay5@bloomberg.net, Leila TahaFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


UPDATE 2-UK's Javid plans first post-Brexit budget on Nov 6
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 02:29:50 -0400

UPDATE 2-UK's Javid plans first post-Brexit budget on Nov 6Finance minister Sajid Javid said on Monday he planned to deliver Britain's first post-Brexit budget statement on Nov. 6, less than a week after the country's deadline for leaving the European Union, if it exits with a deal. "I will be setting out our plan to shape the economy for the future and triggering the start of our infrastructure revolution," Javid said in a statement.


EU negotiators continue to discuss Brexit as deadline looms
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 04:56:45 -0400

EU negotiators continue to discuss Brexit as deadline loomsBrexit negotiators are meeting again Monday in an attempt to reach a deal that would allow Britain to leave the European Union with a deal at the end of the month. Ireland says a Brexit deal may be possible in the coming days, after technical teams from Britain and the EU worked through the weekend. Discussions centered on the difficult issue of the future border arrangements between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.


Saudi visit showcases Putin's growing Middle East influence
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 02:08:27 -0400

Saudi visit showcases Putin's growing Middle East influenceRussian President Vladimir Putin visits Saudi Arabia on Monday for the first time in over a decade, seeking to capitalise on growing influence borne of military advances in Syria, strong ties with regional rivals and cooperation on energy policy. Moscow accrued power in the Middle East in 2015 by sending troops to Syria, where it and Iran have been key backers of President Bashar al-Assad amid civil war, while the United States pulled back.


Hong Kong Police Officer Slashed in Neck as Violence Continues
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 01:45:25 -0400

Hong Kong Police Officer Slashed in Neck as Violence Continues(Bloomberg) -- A Hong Kong police officer was slashed in the neck by a protester as clashes continued following an escalation of violence earlier this month in demonstrations that began in June.Demonstrators spread out across 18 districts on Sunday in scattered, pop-up protests to pressure the government to meet their remaining demands, including the right to choose and elect their own leaders. Police said the officer suffered a neck wound after being attacked with a “sharp-edged” object in a subway station. On Monday, police said the officer remained in hospital but was in stable condition.Due to “serious vandalism,” the city’s rail operator MTR Corp. said on Monday all main subway lines, MTR buses and light rail would shut down early at 10 p.m. The Airport Express route was not affected, the company said, adding that it made the decision after reviewing ongoing repairs and conducting a “joint risk assessment” with the government.Overall the disruption wasn’t as bad as earlier this month, when the subway system was completely shut down due to widespread violence after leader Carrie Lam invoked emergency powers last used more than half a century ago to impose a ban face masks. Prior to this weekend, some activists had urged others to scale back the vandalism that has shut shops, banks and train stations over concerns it could sap support for the movement.Several events later this week could add fuel to the protests: Lam is due to give her annual economic-policy address, and U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives may vote on a bill that would require annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trading status and potentially sanction some Chinese officials. Protesters plan to hold a rally in support of the bill in Central starting at 7 p.m. on Monday.“The protesters and the people in Hong Kong certainly would like to have more international attention, would like to secure international sympathy,” Joseph Cheng, a retired political science professor and pro-democracy activist, said Sunday. “The concern obviously is that violent activities may lose international support. There is a definite awareness.”Protesters are also concerned that violence may give the government an excuse to delay local elections next month, particularly as demonstrators are still enjoying popular support. Lam’s approval rating has been stuck near record lows for months.U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday appeared to endorse the notion that the protests were waning in a meeting in Washington with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He. The two sides agreed to “phase one” of a trade deal that reduced tensions between the world’s biggest economies, even as thorny issues remain.“We discussed Hong Kong and I think great progress has been made by China in Hong Kong,” Trump said. “And I’ve been watching and I actually told the vice premier it really has toned down a lot from the initial days of a number of months ago when I saw a lot of people, and I see far fewer now.”The issue jumped into the forefront of debate in the U.S. over the past week after the general manager of the Houston Rockets basketball team tweeted support for the anti-Beijing protesters. The tweet was quickly deleted, but it triggered a backlash from Chinese companies and fans, leading to an exhibition game on Thursday in Shanghai not being aired or streamed in China.While he didn’t refer directly to Hong Kong, China President Xi Jinping told Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli that those attempting to split China will be crushed, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday. Xi said any external force backing the split of China will be considered as delusional by the Chinese people, the report said.The ongoing unrest was sparked by the Hong Kong government’s plan to introduce now-withdrawn legislation that would’ve allowed extradition to mainland China. Protester demands have since broadened to include an independent commission of inquiry into police brutality and greater democracy. Lam’s use of the emergency law raised the ire of protesters and paralyzed large parts of the city.About 100 restaurants have closed because of the unrest, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said in a blog post Sunday. Around 2,000 employees have been affected as a result of the closures, Chan said, citing the catering industry.Since protests erupted on China’s National Day on Oct. 1, police have arrested about 500 people, including 77 for violating the mask ban, and fired almost 2,000 rounds of tear gas. Dozens of people have have been injured, including two teenage protesters who were shot during fights with police.Lam has refused to rule out further emergency measures, or even requesting Chinese military intervention to halt the unrest. “If the situation becomes so bad, then no option should be ruled out, if we want Hong Kong to at least have another chance,” she told reporters Tuesday.(Updates with police officer’s condition in second paragrah)\--With assistance from Stanley James and Iain Marlow.To contact the reporters on this story: Aaron Mc Nicholas in Hong Kong at amcnicholas2@bloomberg.net;Eric Lam in Hong Kong at elam87@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Scott at bscott66@bloomberg.net, Daniel Ten KateFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


The Latest: Australia says Turkey to blame for IS escapes
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 01:22:19 -0400

The Latest: Australia says Turkey to blame for IS escapesAustralia's foreign minister says Turkey is solely responsible for the escape of Islamic State group fighters from custody in Syria. Foreign Minister Marise Payne was commenting in the Australian Senate after hundreds of Islamic State families and supporters escaped from a holding camp on Sunday amid fighting between Turkish forces and the Kurds. Opposition lawmakers argue that Turkey's military incursion has been enabled by the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria.


US pulling out of northern Syria; full withdrawal possible
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 01:01:41 -0400

US pulling out of northern Syria; full withdrawal possibleThe United States appears to be heading toward a full military withdrawal from Syria amid growing chaos , cries of betrayal and signs that Turkey's invasion could fuel a broader war. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that President Donald Trump had directed U.S. troops in northern Syria to begin pulling out "as safely and quickly as possible." He did not say Trump ordered troops to leave Syria, but that seemed like the next step in a combat zone growing more unstable by the hour. Esper, interviewed on two TV news shows, said the administration was considering its options.


Pakistan on Mission to Enable Iran Talks With U.S., Saudi Arabia
Mon, 14 Oct 2019 01:00:00 -0400

Pakistan on Mission to Enable Iran Talks With U.S., Saudi Arabia(Bloomberg) -- Pakistan is conducting shuttle diplomacy to promote talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to end a tense standoff that has roiled energy markets and pushed the rival Gulf powers to the brink of war.During a visit to Iran on Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he was acting “not as a mediator but as a facilitator” for talks between Tehran and Riyadh, where he’s traveling on Monday. In a statement shown live on Iranian state television, Khan said President Donald Trump had also asked him to help aid a dialogue between Iran and the U.S. over the 2015 nuclear deal.Iranian Oil Tanker Attacked as Middle East Tensions Remain HighComing two days after an Iranian oil tanker was attacked in the Red Sea, the visit is the latest outside attempt to broker some sort of engagement between the oil-rich Persian state, the U.S. and its stalwart regional ally, Saudi Arabia. Earlier efforts by Japan and France have yielded little progress. Khan said he’ll travel to Saudi Arabia with a “positive frame of mind.”Iran said the tanker was struck by two missiles early Friday. It hasn’t directly blamed Saudi Arabia for the incident and withdrew an initial remark by an official that the rockets probably emanated from the kingdom. On Sunday Iranian maritime officials said rescue centers in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt all ignored emails sent from the ship requesting help in violation of international rules, the semi-official Fars News reported, citing the National Iranian Tanker Company.Pressure has been rising in the region since Trump unilaterally withdrew from the international accord with Iran last year and imposed harsh sanctions on the Islamic Republic, vowing to wipe out its crude exports. Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities were attacked last month, briefly slashing global oil output by 5%.Appearing alongside Khan, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said he told the Pakistani premier in their meeting that the U.S. must return to the original nuclear agreement. He said he welcomed any effort to reduce tensions in the region.Khan -- one of several leaders who unsuccessfully tried to broker talks between Trump and Rouhani at the United Nations General Assembly last month -- also met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who pressed him to complete Pakistan’s share of a stalled joint gas pipeline, which Islamabad abandoned in 2014, citing international sanctions at the time.Khamenei also used his meeting with Khan to warn countries that they would “regret” starting a war with Iran, according to his official website.The kingdom didn’t ask for Pakistan’s mediation and is waiting for Iran to take the initiative, according to Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir.“It’s really up to Iran, they know what they need to do,” Al-Jubeir said in Riyadh Sunday. “And they need to change their behavior, their policies, if they want countries to deal with them as with normal countries.”\--With assistance from Dina Khrennikova.To contact the reporters on this story: Abbas Al Lawati in Dubai at aallawati6@bloomberg.net;Arsalan Shahla in Tehran at ashahla@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at lnoueihed@bloomberg.net, Paul AbelskyFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Kurds strike deal with Syrian government amid Turkish onslaught
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 21:17:31 -0400

Kurds strike deal with Syrian government amid Turkish onslaughtPresident Trump's decision to move U.S. troops from northern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to launch an assault against the Kurds, prompted the Kurds on Sunday to reach a protection deal with the Syrian government.Under this agreement, Syrian government troops will be able to enter Kurdish-controlled northeastern Syria for the first time in years, The New York Times reports. The United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia, spent the last several years as allies, fighting against the Islamic State.There are still ISIS sleeper cells in Syria, and many fear that the Turkish invasion could lead to the terror group's resurgence. Thousands of suspected ISIS supporters are being held in prisons guarded by Kurds, and hundreds escaped during fighting on Saturday and Sunday. Two U.S. officials told the Times the military recently tried to transfer five dozen "high value" ISIS detainees, but feeling betrayed, the Kurds said no.The Syrian government, which counts Iran and Russia as its allies, said on Sunday it will fight the "Turkish aggression," while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops have control over about 70 square miles of territory in northern Syria. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday morning announced all American troops will withdraw from northern Syria, in order to stay out of the crossfire.


The U.S. Spoiled a Deal That Might Have Saved the Kurds, Former Top Official Says
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 20:06:52 -0400

The U.S. Spoiled a Deal That Might Have Saved the Kurds, Former Top Official SaysIsmail Coskun/APABU DHABI—Abandoned by the Americans, their former allies, Syria’s Kurds reportedly are allowing troops from the Assad regime to enter territory they had under their control. The Kurds also are putting out feelers to Russia for support against an onslaught by Turkish troops and Turkish-supported militias.A return of Bashar al-Assad’s forces to northeastern Syria for the first time in seven years would make visible the end to the bitter, controversial U.S. mission there against the so-called Islamic State. That’s not because of any concerted decision to withdraw by President Trump, whose antiwar rhetoric obscured his vacillation about leaving. It’s because Assad will deny his American adversary the room to operate that the Syrian Kurds had provided their deceitful American partners. “We know that we would have to make painful compromises with Moscow and Bashar al-Assad if we go down the road of working with them,” the Kurdish commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) wrote in an op-ed published Sunday in Foreign Policy. “But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people.”More in sorrow than in anger, the commander, Mazloum Abdi, wrote, “When the whole world failed to support us, the United States extended its hands. We shook hands and appreciated its generous support.”But under Turkish pressure, at Washington’s request, the Kurds “agreed to withdraw our heavy weapons from the border area with Turkey, destroy our defensive fortifications, and pull back our most seasoned fighters. Turkey would never attack us so long as the U.S. government was true to its word with us.”Or so they believed. “We are now standing with our chests bare to face the Turkish knives,” Mazloum wrote.Brett McGurk, who resigned as the presidential special envoy to the coalition against ISIS last December, told The Daily Beast on Sunday that such a move by the Syrian Kurds was predictable under the circumstances. Even last year, when McGurk was still serving, Kurdish leaders in Syria were telling the Americans that if support for them and deterrence against a Turkish attack was not going to continue, they needed to make a deal with the Assad regime and Russia for protection. “We have given our road map to the Russians. We are just waiting on a decision,” one senior Kurdish official told The Washington Post.McGurk said he supported that idea at a time when Trump already was talking about pulling out of Syria, but he met firm opposition within the administration. (Special Representative for Syria Engagement Jim Jeffrey, for one, “told the Kurds on multiple occasions, ‘we’ll manage Turkey, don’t make a deal with the [Assad] regime,’” according to a source familiar with the matter.) Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton and crew insisted the U.S. must stay in Syria until Iran was out, or at least on its way. (Representatives for Bolton, whom Trump fired last month, did not immediately reply to a request for comment. Neither did State Department spokespeople.)Since McGurk’s resignation, he has stayed in touch with the members of the SDF and some contacts in the U.S. departments of state and defense. He says the Kurds asked repeatedly if the support and protection of the United States could be relied upon, and they were told repeatedly that the Americans had their backs. But that was not the case. McGurk told the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi that when the Russians first got heavily involved in Syria in 2016, an oft-repeated truism about Kremlin duplicity was, “Everybody knows not to get into a well with a Russian rope.”“But now what I hear,” McGurk told the audience, “is that nobody should get into a well with an American rope.”In other words, once it became clear in 2018 that Trump was hostile to the open-ended U.S. presence in Syria he inherited, the Kurds had options to help ease the end of their relationship with the Americans. But Trump’s State Department and Pentagon, unwilling to face up to a final withdrawal—and the unequivocal loss of U.S. influence in a part of the Middle East where it is increasingly impotent, if not irrelevant—convinced the Kurds not to plan for an American departure. Had the Kurds done so, their new Russian and Syrian partners might have been able to spare them the devastation that Turkey is now wreaking as the U.S. pulls back and stands by. And now that the slaughter has begun, Mazloum has made clear that his forces and his people have no choice but to look to Russia and Damascus for support. Unfortunately for the Kurds, as McGurk points out, after Trump’s betrayal dramatically weakened their position, when they call the Russians or the Syrian regime it’s not clear that anyone is picking up the phone.Meanwhile, mass escapes of ISIS prisoners and alleged war crimes by Turkish-backed militia members in northeast Syria reflected the mounting chaos as Ankara drives ahead with an assault that already is deeper into Syria than originally announced.“I think we are likely to see a significant comeback by ISIS,” McGurk told the audience in Abu Dhabi. In Washington and in the field, confusion among the Americans is rampant. Ever since last Sunday’s phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the administration has aggressively insisted that its green light to Erdoğan, complete with a presidential invitation to the White House next month, was really a red light.Trump Says U.S. Troops Have Quit Syria. It’s Not True.On Sunday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS, “Look, it's a very terrible situation over there. A situation caused by the Turks, by President Erdoğan. Despite our opposition they decided to make this incursion into Syria.” Trump has escalated his rhetoric about the generation-long disaster of the U.S. military in the Mideast, but he has still yet to withdraw from Syria–and has in fact deployed 14,000 new troops to the Gulf region in the past six months. Incoherence, deceit and betrayal are now the most conspicuous characteristics of U.S. policy. Esper said that because the Kurds are looking to cut a deal if you will with the Syrians and the Russians to counter-attack against the Turks in the north, American troops could find themselves “caught between two opposing advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation. So I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria.”But as it dawns on Trump that his “end endless wars” mantra could ignite a new endless war, he is reluctant to carry out a full troop withdrawal. Esper spoke about withdrawing from “northern Syria” two days after he and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted there were “no additional changes to our force posture.” Two knowledgeable U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that the U.S. planned to remain in Syria, just further away from the Turkish fighting positions. Some undisclosed hundreds of the 1,000 U.S. forces currently in Syria will indeed leave the country—for elsewhere in the Mideast, however, not home. U.S. ‘Withdraws’ as Kurds Strike Deal to Let Assad's Forces Into RegionBut all of that improvisation, the consequence of senior officials attempting to salvage something after the Trump-Erdogan accord, may now be overtaken by events. Assad’s forces are unlikely to permit continued U.S. operations. The end of a war never declared by Congress may come not by American decision, let alone negotiation, but by American adversaries seizing the initiative that Trump has been comfortable abandoning. Already reports are coming in from Syria of ISIS fighters breaking out of their Kurdish detention facilities as the Kurds fight for their lives. According to the New York Times, the rapid pullback, sometimes under fire from their Turkish NATO ally, has cost the Americans their plans to move a handful of senior ISIS detainees to U.S. military custody in neighboring Iraq. All of it raises the prospect of ISIS grabbing victory—meaning a new lease on life—out of the jaws of defeat after the Kurds, sponsored by the U.S., finished off the Caliphate in 2018.Meanwhile leaders in the Middle East are trying to come to terms with the fact that the Americans have proved to be fatally unreliable allies.Hoshyar Zebari, the former deputy prime minister and foreign minister of Iraq, told the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi that in the Syrian war, “The Russians did not walk away from their partners. The Iranians did not walk away from their partners. But the Americans did.”“Definitely the Turks will be emboldened,” Zebari told The Daily Beast. “We expect about 50,000 refugees to cross the border,” he said, mostly into the Kurdish region of Iraq.  Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


Syria's Kurds look to Assad for protection after US pullout
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 19:39:13 -0400

Syria's Kurds look to Assad for protection after US pulloutSyria's Kurds said Syrian government forces agreed Sunday to help them fend off Turkey's invasion — a major shift in alliances that came after President Donald Trump ordered all U.S. troops withdrawn from the northern border area amid the rapidly deepening chaos. The shift could lead to clashes between Turkey and Syria and raises the specter of a resurgent Islamic State group as the U.S. relinquishes any remaining influence in northern Syria to President Bashar Assad and his chief backer, Russia.


With Hypersonic Missiles, Israel's F-35s Are Upping The Ante In Syria
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 18:20:42 -0400

With Hypersonic Missiles, Israel's F-35s Are Upping The Ante In SyriaIran has taken notice.


PM Johnson to set out post-Brexit law and order drive in Queen's Speech
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 17:00:00 -0400

PM Johnson to set out post-Brexit law and order drive in Queen's SpeechQueen Elizabeth will on Monday announce several new pieces of legislation to reform Britain's justice system, in a ceremonial speech setting out Prime Minister Boris Johnson's post-Brexit plans. The so-called Queen's Speech is the highlight of a day of elaborate pageantry in Westminster and is used to detail all the bills the government wants to enact in the coming year.


Pompeo suggests reporter 'working for Democrats' after impeachment grilling
Sun, 13 Oct 2019 16:13:06 -0400

Pompeo suggests reporter 'working for Democrats' after impeachment grillingTitans of American journalism Rather and Mitchell join praise of Nancy Amons after Nashville reporter stuns secretary of state * Opinion: Rudy Giuliani is Donald Trump’s real secretary of stateSecretary of state Mike Pompeo. Photograph: Pablo Martínez Monsiváis/APSecretary of state Mike Pompeo suffered embarrassment from an unexpected quarter on Friday, as an interview with a local TV reporter in Nashville, Tennessee, produced not softball platitudes but hardball questions about the impeachment inquiry.“It sounds like you’re working, at least in part, for the Democratic National Committee,” the flustered diplomat said as he was pressed over Donald Trump’s attempts to have Ukraine investigate a political rival.Pompeo was in Nashville to give a speech to a Christian group about religious freedom, a priority of the Trump administration. WSMV, an NBC affiliate, reported that he told his audience it was “a heck of a day not to be in Washington”.WSMV reporter Nancy Amons was determined not to give him a break.Saying she would “start right away with the tough stuff, as you know”, Amons asked about a key issue in the Ukraine scandal: the removal of the US ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, who was testifying to House members on Friday, and the resignation of Michael McKinley, a close aide to Pompeo.“Well, ma’am, you have some of your facts wrong, so you should be careful about things you assert as facts before you state them,” Pompeo said.“But more importantly, I’m incredibly proud of the work that I’ve done along with my team, other senior leaders at the state department, to make sure that this institution was functional, preserved and delivering on behalf of America.”Pressed, Pompeo repeated that he did not talk about personnel matters as “it wouldn’t be appropriate, ma’am, to do that”. He appreciated the question “a great deal”, he said, but would not answer it.With Pompeo’s irritation increasingly visible, Amons asked if he had met Rudy Giuliani on a visit to Warsaw this year.The former New York mayor is commonly described as Donald Trump’s personal lawyer although it is not clear what legal work he might do for the president.As the impeachment inquiry proceeds, Giuliani is under scrutiny regarding extra-governmental efforts to promote conspiracy theories about Ukraine and to persuade President Vlodimyr Zelinskiy to investigate unproven allegations of corruption against Hunter Biden, the son of former vice-president Joe Biden.Two Soviet-born associates of Giuliani were arrested this week on campaign finance charges. Giuliani himself is reportedly under investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.Pompeo chose three times not to answer Amons’ question, instead offering grim-faced variations on a theme: that he went to Warsaw to work on “an important mission … to take down the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran” and it was the “only thing I engaged in while I was there”.“It sounds like you’re not going to say,” Amons said.She then asked about text messages between US diplomats, obtained by House Democrats, which show concern that Trump was making the US-Ukraine relationship contingent on help with investigating the Bidens.“Were you aware that this was happening?” she asked.“You’ve got your facts wrong,” Pompeo said. “It sounds like you’re working, at least in part, for the Democratic National Committee when you phrase the predicate of a question in that way.“It’s unfortunate and it does a real disservice to the employees and the team at the United States Department of State. Our team was incredibly focused, we wanted a good relationship with Ukraine.”Amons also asked about the situation in Syria, where Trump’s decision to pull US troops away from the border with Turkey has given a green light to an incursion by Turkish forces opposed to Kurdish groups long allied to the US.Civilian casualties and possible war crimes have been reported. The United Nations said on Sunday 130,000 people have been displaced. Nashville is home to a sizeable Kurdish American community, some of whom told the Guardian this week of their sense of betrayal by the US government. Amons asked the secretary of state what he would say to them.“So the United States under President Trump did enormous work to support the Kurds in taking down the [Islamic State] in predominantly Kurdish regions of Syria,” Pompeo said.Asked “for the Kurds who are here in Nashville, do you see why they are so worried”, he said: “We’ve been incredibly supportive and we will continue to support them.”The interview drew praise from some titans of American journalism, among them Andrea Mitchell and Dan Rather, who Amons thanked on Twitter.She also thanked her team and wrote: “Being prepared is crucial, and listening – things I learned through many years of workshops with Investigative Reporters and Editors, a great non-profit for journalists.”Asked about Pompeo’s evident irritation with her questions, she wrote: “No, I never felt unsafe. I think he liked me less at the end though than at the beginning.”



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