US Imposes New Economic Sanctions on Turkey

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On Monday, President Trump indicated he will soon sign an executive order placing considerable economic sanctions on Turkey in response to its ‘destabilizing’ offensive in northeastern Syria. Sanctions indicate that Turkey has in fact gone ‘off limits’ with some of its actions, a fear Trump has voiced recently. Earlier today, the president was specific when indicating some of the economic actions to be taken against Turkey ahead of the executive order. Negotiations on a $100 trade deal between the US and Turkey will end immediately, and steel tariffs will be placed back up to 50 percent.

The executive order will bring on more aggressive measures. According to news sources in the US who obtained a copy of the order it will declare a national emergency to “address the situation in and in relation to Syria, and in particular the recent actions by the Government of Turkey to conduct a military offensive into northeast Syria.” Current and former Turkish government and military officials will be targeted.

The situation in northeastern Syria has grown increasingly unstable since Turkish forces crossed the border. The apparently intentional artillery shelling of a US base by Turkish troops is but one of the incidents that has prompted Trump’s decision to implement sanctions. Aside from the shelling, news of the Syrian government’s decision to deploy troops in the northeast to aid Kurdish and SDF forces, and confront the Turkish invasion.

Trump is hoping the economic sanctions will help the US get out in front of the recent developments, and with luck bring Turkey’s war aims back down to a realistic level.

This will be discussed more tomorrow, along with some discussion about Turkey’s precarious relationship with NATO, and its future.

Syrian Update #2 9 October, 2019: Turkish Ground Forces Cross the Border

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Earlier this evening Turkey announced its ground forces have begun crossing the border into Syria. After a short preparatory artillery barrage, and preceded earlier by airstrikes, Turkish ground forces are making their initial assault.

When Turkey launched air strikes earlier in the day, Kurdish forces requested US air cover to protect its troops, and the Kurdish civilians located near the targets. Washington declined the request and has instructed the US military not to become involved in the fighting.

Meanwhile, back in the US, President Trump continues to receive a hearty dose of criticism from Democrats, and some of his fellow Republicans. The fear in Washington and among some military officers, and analysts is that the United States has abandoned the Kurds, a staunch ally in the fight against ISIS. Whether accurate or not, a growing concern is that other US allies will second-guess US commitments to the security, and defense of their nations, potentially undercutting the US position around the world.

Syria Update 9 October, 2019: Operation Peace Spring Begins

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Operation Peace Spring, Turkey’s long-anticipated military operation to establish a buffer zone free of Kurdish militias in northeast Syria is now underway. The offensive commenced with airstrikes against suspected Kurdish militia, and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the region. Turkish President  Recep Tayyip Erdogan has officially claimed the purpose of the operation is to establish a safe zone that will house Syrian refugees. Erdogan has also promised to respect Syrian sovereignty.

So far Syrian ground forces do not appear to have crossed the border but that will happen eventually. For now, the first phase of the operation is underway and focused on preparing the battlefield with air and artillery. When the enemy positions (real and suspected) have been sufficiently weakened, only then will Turkish ground forces cross over. That moment could come in a matter of hours or days, depending on a number of factors both political and military.

Reaction from around the world has been swift, and guarded for the most part. The UN Security Council will hold a private meeting on Thursday to discuss the Turkish action. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has urged Turkey to ‘act with restraint.’ In Washington, President Trump stated the US does not endorse the operation, and has made clear to Turkey that he believes it is a ‘bad idea.’ The president’s full statement, released by the White House is as follows:

“The United States does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea. Turkey has committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment.”

There will be additional updates posted on this blog later in the evening, or as events unfold.

6 August, 2019 World Brief: Kashmir, Turkey, US-China Trade War

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The beginning of the week has been a volatile one across the world from the Middle East to Asia. I am coming off of a long weekend and feel the best way to begin the week on here is with a brief on some of the world’s brightest flashpoints at the moment.

 

Kashmir

The Indian government has decided to fully incorporate the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into the nation. It will become a union territory and the central government in New Delhi will assume considerably more control over the state’s affairs. The Kashmir region has enjoyed almost full autonomous authority since 1949. Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, the section of the document allowing J&K to conduct its own affairs, will be scrapped. Last week, a buildup of army troops, and paramilitary police in Kashmir, coupled with government warnings for visitors to leave the region immediately, foreshadowed Monday’s announcement. Unrest is expected and will likely occur. The growing concern in the region and around the world is what Pakistan’s reaction will be to India’s move. It will likely intensify tension between the rivals, who have fought multiple wars over the Kashmir region in the past. The Pakistani government has called for a joint session of the nation’s parliament today, and the military leadership has begun discussions on ‘regional security.’

 

Turkey Prepares for Syrian Offensive

Turkey has started moving forces onto its border with northwestern Syria as a major offensive against the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces in that area becomes likely. A military move against the Kurds by Turkey will significantly ramp up already high tensions between Ankara and Washington. A delegation of US military officials is presently in Turkey and conducting talks aimed at heading off the Turkish offensive. Whether or not the Turks heed the US warning remains to be seen.

 

US-China Trade War

Following a sudden, and sharp drop of the yuan against the dollar, the US Treasury has designated China as a currency manipulator. The exchange is the latest as the US-China Trade War shows no signs of letting up anytime soon. The US viewed the drop in the yuan’s value as a deliberate move by Beijing to make China’s products cheaper on the international market and circumvent US tariffs. Stock indexes around the world reacted negatively to the Chinese action, and the US label, especially Wall Street which saw its worst trading day of the year. Today, China’s central bank set the yuan’s official position above the 7 yuan-to-the-dollar mark, bringing it out of currency manipulation territory and calming world markets. It is becoming clear, however, that the US-China Trade War will likely escalate further before it calms.