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Syria: Turkey launches offensive against US-backed militia



“Our aim is to destroy the terror corridor which is trying to be established on our southern border and to bring peace and peace to the region,” Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tweeted as he announced the start of the operation.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who operate in the area are US allies. They are led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

Reports began to filter in on Wednesday following the aerial bombardment, with the SDF tweeting that two civilians had been killed and two others injured in the village of Misharrafa, west of Ras al-Ain.

The SDF said civilian homes in the village of Sikarkah in eastern Qamishli and areas near the Bouzra dam in Derik — which provides water to hundreds of thousands of civilians in northern Syria — were also targeted.

The SDF suspended their counter-ISIS operations amid the bombardment in order to focus on the Turkish offensive.

“We will clash against the Turks to not allow them to cross the border. We will use all our possibilities against Turkish aggression,” the group’s spokesman Mustafa Bali tweeted.

The offensive comes days after US President Donald Trump provoked a storm of criticism, including from his own party, by announcing the pullback of US military forces from northeast Syria.

Trump: Turkey operation is a ‘bad idea’

Trump defended his decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria on Wednesday, but added that the US “does not endorse” Turkey’s operation.

“The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” the President said in a statement from the White House.

“From the first day I entered the political arena, I made it clear that I did not want to fight these endless, senseless wars — especially those that don’t benefit the United States … We expect Turkey to abide by all of its commitments, and we continue to monitor the situation closely.”

A photo taken from Turkey's Sanliurfa province shows smoke rising at the site of Ras al-Ain.

Turkey’s Minister of National Defense, Hulusi Akar, tweeted that the United States, United Nations and NATO, among others, had been informed of the operation at 7 a.m. ET.

Ahead of the offensive Wednesday, Syria condemned Turkey’s “aggressive behavior” and “hostile intentions,” according to Syrian state news agency SANA. “The aggressive behavior of the Erdogan regime clearly shows the Turkish expansionist ambitions in the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and cannot be justified under any pretext,” a source at the Foreign Ministry said, SANA reported.

A source at the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the Syrian government holds some Kurds responsible for what is happening “as a result of their dependence on the American project.”

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Erdogan to “carefully weigh the situation” in Syria, so as not to “harm the overall efforts to resolve” the crisis, according to a statement released by the Kremlin.

In the statement, the Kremlin also underlined “the importance of ensuring the unity and territorial integrity of Syria and respect for its sovereignty was noted on both sides.”

Calls to avoid a ‘possible humanitarian catastrophe’

The SDF called on on the international community Tuesday to help avoid a possible humanitarian disaster.

In a series of tweets from the verified Twitter account of the SDF, the General Command said the border areas of northeast Syria “are on the edge of a possible humanitarian catastrophe.” It went on to call on the international community and those countries fighting against ISIS “to carry out their responsibilities” to avoid a “possible impending humanitarian disaster.”

The SDF, which has vowed to defend itself against any perceived Turkish incursion, called on the US-led coalition and the international community to implement a no-fly zone over northern Syria similar to the one implemented in Iraq.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the Turkish military was “the only coalition and NATO army fighting the DAESH (ISIS) terrorist group in the Euphrates Shield Operation.”

“Turkey is one of the countries most affected by DAESH’s bloody activities and has fought against this terrorist organization both domestically and beyond its borders with increasing tempo and intensity,” the ministry said in a tweet posted on its official twitter page.

The Euphrates Shield operation, launched in August 2016 inside Syrian territory, was not only aimed at fighting ISIS but also the YPG.

On Wednesday, the SDF said ISIS “sleeper cells” attacked Kurdish positions in Raqqa, Syria, in the early hours, as tweeted by Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF press office.

Manbij Military Council spokesman, Shervan Derwish, also tweeted about the attack citing security sources saying, “more than 50 armed Daesh group in Raqqa are launching a coordinated attack to control Al Basel base in center of the city.”

On Saturday, Erdogan announced that the country had “completed our preparations and action plan” and was ready to launch a “ground and air operation” east of the Euphrates river, with the goal of establishing “peace” by clearing the region of “terrorists.”

Reinforcements deployed by the Turkish army could be seen arriving at the border town of Akcakale on Tuesday, according to the state-owned Anadolu news agency.

Turkey won’t ‘bow to threats’

Turkish army soldiers drive towards the border with Syria near Akcakale in Sanliurfa province on October 8, 2019.

The Kurds have long been considered as among Washington’s most reliable partners in Syria and in the broader campaign against ISIS in the region.

US-backed Kurdish forces have been responsible for holding all captured ISIS fighters in the area. However, according to the White House, this responsibility will now fall to Turkey.

But a senior adviser to President Erdogan told CNN on Wednesday that Turkey “never said” that it would “shoulder the burden” of the imprisoned ISIS fighters alone.

“We will safeguard any areas that contain these prisons. However, we would like the management of the camps, in particular, something that has to be undertaken as a joint effort with the international community,” Gülnur Aybet said.

And Turkey’s incursion into Syria has already had a “detrimental effect” on US-led counter-ISIS operations, a senior US defense official told CNN Wednesday.

The Turkish operation “has challenged our ability to build local security forces, conduct stabilization operations and the Syrian Democratic Forces’ (ability) to guard over 11,000 dangerous ISIS fighters. We are just watching the second largest army in NATO attack one of our best counter-terrorism partners,” the source said.

On Monday, Trump said he was “not siding with anybody” — Kurdish forces or the Turkish government — and reiterated an earlier warning to Turkey about potential economic devastation.

“I told Turkey if they do anything outside of what we think is humane … they could suffer the wrath of an extremely decimated economy,” the Trump said.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said his country wouldn’t “bow to threats” in an apparent response to Trump’s warning.

“Turkey will teach a lesson to terror organizations that threatens our southern border and we will give an opportunity for Syrian refugees who are currently in Turkey,” Oktay said. “Our message to international community is clear. Turkey is not a country that will bow to threats.”

This story has been updated to correct the date Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward, Nick Paton Walsh, Hamdi Alkhshali, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Samantha Beech, Sharif Paget, Isil Sariyuce, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Rogers and Ryan Browne contributed reporting.



Denver Radio Host Fired in Mid-Show After Criticizing Trump




He said that angered the station’s managers, who warned him last week that if he continued to speak on competing shows, his job would be jeopardy.

“I canceled going on, and then I met with them on Thursday,” Mr. Silverman said. “I explained that under my contract, I have a right to go on other media. And they said, well, we don’t want you to do it.”

In addition to dropping Mr. Silverman from the air, KNUS has also apparently removed all of his content from its website, including more than five years’ worth of podcasts.

Elizabeth Skewes, a professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder who teaches media law and ethics, said that while “to some degree, Craig Silverman was doing what he was hired to do, express his opinion,” the station was well within its rights to dismiss him if it no longer wanted to put those opinions on the air. The First Amendment protects free speech only from government censorship, she said, not from private business decisions.

Even so, she said, she saw it as part of a problematic trend.

“We’ve become less tolerant of alternative viewpoints as media has become more polarized,” Professor Skewes said. “The more narrow it gets, the worse off we are as a democracy.”

Others working in broadcasting have seen their careers abruptly deflected over whether they were supportive of Mr. Trump. When Jerry Bader, a conservative radio host in Green Bay, Wis., was fired in 2018 after 18 years at the station, he said it was over his criticism of the president. In October, the Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who had frequently aired reports critical of Mr. Trump, abruptly resigned after publicly clashing with a staunchly pro-Trump host on the network, Tucker Carlson.

And James Bunner, a reporter for KTTC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Rochester, Minn., was fired in October for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat while covering a Trump rally.


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Republicans Shift Defense of Trump, While He Attacks Another Witness




Ms. Pelosi, also appearing on “Face the Nation,” suggested that Mr. Trump — who is blocking key witnesses like Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, from testifying — make his case for himself, while delivering a brief lesson in Latin: “If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it.”

Hours after that broadcast, Mr. Trump — who last week attacked Marie L. Yovanovitch, his former ambassador to Ukraine, on Twitter while she was testifying — unleashed an afternoon Twitter storm, lashing out at a second witness, Jennifer Williams, an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence.

Ms. Williams, a longtime State Department employee with expertise in Europe and Russia who has been detailed to Mr. Pence’s national security staff, is among those who listened to a July 25 telephone call in which Mr. Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to “do us a favor” and investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

Mr. Trump had frozen the military aid about a week before.

Ms. Williams told House investigators she thought the telephone call was “unusual and inappropriate,” adding, “I guess for me it shed some light on possible other motivations behind a security assistance hold,” according to a transcript of her deposition released Saturday evening by Democrats.

“Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement from Ukraine,” Mr. Trump wrote, misspelling the word “statement.” “Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!”


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Iran Blocks Nearly All Internet Access




The Associated Press reported that Iran also experienced wide disruptions and outages of internet service on Friday and Saturday, according to the group NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. By Saturday night, connectivity had fallen to just 7 percent of ordinary levels, NetBlocks said.

“The ongoing disruption is the most severe recorded in Iran since President Rouhani came to power, and the most severe disconnection tracked by NetBlocks in any country in terms of its technical complexity and breadth,” the group said. The internet firm Oracle called it “the largest internet shutdown ever observed in Iran.”

Ahmad, a taxi driver in Tehran who did not want his last name used, said in telephone interview that when he tried to connect to the internet on his mobile phone, a recorded message said that because of a decision by the National Security Council, connectivity had been cut off.

WhatsApp and Instagram, both used widely by Iranians, were also blocked.

Fahimeh, an accountant, said she and her friends relied on WhatsApp to find out the location and time of protests, and in the absence of the internet, it would be difficult for Iranians to plan and spread the word.

The Ministry of Information said Sunday that it had identified bad actors among protesters and warned that those responsible for unrest would be arrested.

Intelligence agents on Sunday arrested Abdoleza Davari, a senior aide to Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a vocal critic of the gas price policy, according to his wife, Elham Salmani. Mr. Davari had posted a tweet a day earlier saying that the people have the right to demonstrate and that parliament must hear their concerns and stand up to the branches of the government imposing this policy.

“They have failed to successfully counter freethinking with ideology so the only tool at their disposal is violence,” said Ms. Salmani, a journalist and political activist, in a telephone interview. She said the prosecutor’s office had threatened to arrest her as well and had accused her of hiding her husband’s mobile telephone and laptop computer.

Mostafa Tajzadeh, a prominent reformist politician, said on Twitter that if elected officials could not listen to the demands of the people, “they should resign and leave the country to its real rulers.”


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