Archive for July 25, 2018

U.S. Pastor Moved to House Arrest in Turkey. Pompeo Says It’s ‘Not Enough.’

July 25, 2018

By The New York Times July 25, 2018

Source Link:
U.S. Pastor Moved to House Arrest in Turkey. Pompeo Says It’s ‘Not Enough.’

{I’m reminded of ‘Daniel in the Den of Lions.’ – LS}

An American pastor held on espionage charges in Turkey, the focus of an intensive campaign by top United States officials seeking his freedom, was moved from jail to house arrest on Wednesday because of health concerns.

Andrew Brunson, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor from North Carolina, has been held for more than a year and a half in a case that has aggravated already tense relations between Turkey and the United States, longtime allies. He is one of 20 Americans who were charged after a failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

President Trump spoke to Mr. Erdogan by phone about the case, and posted a message on Twitter last week urging the Turkish leader to “do something” to free the pastor.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also took to Twitter to say that while the United States welcomed the “long overdue news that Pastor Brunson has been moved from prison to house arrest,” the measure was “not enough.”

“We have seen no credible evidence against Mr. Brunson, and call on Turkish authorities to resolve his case immediately in a transparent and fair manner,” Mr. Pompeo wrote.

Just last week, a court in Turkey’s western Izmir Province upheld an earlier decision to place Mr. Brunson in jail while he awaited the continuation of a trial on charges of terrorism and espionage. His lawyer appealed the decision, citing unspecified concerns over Mr. Brunson’s health, according to the semiofficial Anadolu news agency.

On Wednesday, the same court ordered Mr. Brunson released into house arrest until his trial resumes in October. The court ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet at all times and barred him from traveling outside the country.

Footage of a car carrying Mr. Brunson, accompanied by a police escort, was shown live on television as the pastor was moved from a prison in Izmir to his home. He was later seen entering his home.

Mr. Brunson could face 35 years in prison if found guilty of having links to two groups Turkey considers terrorist organizations: a movement led by the American-based cleric Fethullah Gulen — whom Turkey accuses of initiating the 2016 coup attempt — and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Mr. Brunson, who has done missionary work in Turkey for 23 years, worked with his wife at a small Protestant church in the city of Izmir, on the country’s Aegean coast. He has denied any links to terrorist organizations, and says he eschews politics in his work.

The American Center for Law and Justice, an organization representing Mr. Brunson’s family, said in a statement on Wednesday that it looked forward to his ultimate return to the United States. It applauded Mr. Trump for pursuing his release.

“This is a critical first step that we believe will result in the freedom of Pastor Brunson so he can return to the United States and be reunited with his family,” Jay Sekulow, the group’s chief counsel, said in a statement.

Officials advocating for Mr. Brunson’s release believe that resolving his case could signal an improvement in relations between the countries. The Turkish authorities have suggested handing Mr. Brunson over to the United States in exchange for Mr. Gulen’s extradition to Turkey to face charges in the coup attempt. The Americans have rejected requests to extradite Mr. Gulen.

The United States Senate last month temporarily blocked the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey because of Mr. Brunson’s imprisonment and Turkey’s purchase of a Russian air defense system.

A pro-government columnist, Abdulkadir Selvi, said in a televised comment that the dispute over Mr. Brunson had “reached a point that it was poisoning the relationship between the United States and Turkey.” Of the pastor’s move to house arrest, he said, “This is a step.”

Mr. Selvi said that now it was the United States’ turn to take “a step” to improve the relationship, alluding to Mr. Gulen.

Congress blocks F-35s to Turkey, as Ankara turns toward tyranny

July 25, 2018


Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto | Getty Images

by Jordan Schachtel · July 25, 2018 Conservative Review

Source Link:
Congress blocks F-35s to Turkey, as Ankara turns toward tyranny

{The payback is starting and it’s going to be a bitch. – LS}

A bipartisan measure in Congress has succeeded in temporarily blocking the latest generation of U.S. fighter jets from getting into the hands of the Erdogan regime in Turkey.

On Tuesday, the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) delayed the delivery of the F-35 joint strike fighter to Turkey. The amendment requires that the Pentagon reassess Turkey’s efforts to purchase an advanced S-400 missile system from Russia.

Legislators also felt that Turkey should not receive the F-35s given the ongoing detention of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson and other unnamed Americans. Turkey is believed to be holding the pastor as a bargaining chip in hopes of securing the extradition of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara does not appear to be concerned about the transfer of the F-35s. In comments to Turkey’s state-run media, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remained confident that the F-35s would be delivered on schedule.

Turkey continues to be a thorn in the side of the NATO alliance. The regime in Ankara has repeatedly cozied up to American adversaries in Russia and Iran. Inside Turkey, human rights travesties unfold on a daily basis. An April 2017 referendum gave Erdogan amazing powers, stripping away much of Turkey’s secular, constitutional system of checks and balances.  Erdogan has leveraged an alleged coup against his government to garner even more power. He has ordered the indefinite imprisonment of tens of thousands of academics, religious minorities, activists, journalists, students, and anyone else whom he perceives as a challenge to his rule.

Moreover, some of the regime’s highest-ranking officials have been accused of supporting jihadi terrorist groups in the Middle East. Recently, Erdogan’s son-in-law (who is now Turkey’s finance minister) was connected to energy deals with the Islamic State terrorist organization. Turkey openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist affiliate Hamas.

Erdogan is also stirring up trouble with close American allies. This week, he claimed that Israel was the “most fascist, racist state” in the world, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of following in the footsteps of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

Despite all of these concerns, Defense Secretary James Mattis has insisted that Turkey should still receive the Lockheed Martin F-35s. He has warned that blocking the sale could trigger a “supply chain disruption.” Turkey aspires to have a fleet of about 100 F-35s.

Turkey vows to keep buying Iranian oil: ‘We will not obey’

July 25, 2018

by Joel Gehrke | July 24, 2018 Washington Examiner

Source Link: Turkey vows to keep buying Iranian oil: ‘We will not obey’

{One day, Turkey will need a favor from DJT. Let’s see how that works out. – LS}

Turkey plans to keep purchasing Iranian oil in defiance of American sanctions on the rogue regime, according to the NATO ally’s top diplomat.

“We buy oil from Iran and we purchase it in proper conditions,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday. “What is the other option?”

Cavusoglu’s comments raise the specter of yet another clash between the U.S. and Turkey, which is also in the final stages of an arms deal with Russia that could trigger American sanctions. Turkish officials, in both cases, have dismissed the U.S.’ threat of sanctions to constrain the choices of other countries.

“While we are explaining why we will not obey these sanctions, we have also expressed that we do not find these U.S. sanctions appropriate,” Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

The Trump administration hopes to isolate Iran and deprive the regime of access to international sources of revenue that might be used to finance a nuclear weapons program or regional aggression by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and the regime’s terrorist proxies.

“Any time sanctions are put in place, countries have to give up economic activity,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in May. “So the Americans have given up economic activity now for an awfully long time, and I’ll concede there are American companies who would love to do business with the Islamic Republic of Iran … But everyone is going to have to participate in this. Every country is going to have to understand that we cannot continue to create wealth for Qasem Soleimani.”

Turkey has pledged to consummate an agreement to purchase Russian S-400 anti-aircraft defenses, despite strong pushback from NATO allies and U.S. sanctions on the Russian defense industry.

But as Cavosoglu takes a hard line on the oil sanctions, Tupras, Turkey’s biggest oil importer, is cutting back on deals with Iran without eliminating the sales entirely.

“During the sanctions scheme of 2011 by the U.S., Tupras was able to purchase three to four cargoes of Iranian crude a month,” a source told Hurriyet Daily News. “I believe they would want to be able to stick to that this time as well instead of completely stopping. This crude needs to be bought by someone as otherwise it will send the price shooting up, which nobody wants.”

That reduction might render Turkey eligible for a rare waiver from the sanctions. “We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis,” Brian Hook, the State Department director of policy planning, told reporters in early July. “But as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses.”

Still, Cavusoglu’s rhetoric is emblematic of the disagreements that have hampered U.S.-Turkey cooperation in the region of late.

“We need [Turkey’s] behavior to reflect the objectives of NATO, and that’s what we’re diligently working to do: to get them to rejoin NATO, in a way, with their actions, consistent with what we’re trying to achieve in NATO,” Pompeo said during a May congressional hearing. “And not take actions that undermine its efforts.”

Israel’s message to Syria: No more ‘small violations’ 

July 25, 2018

Source: Israel’s message to Syria: No more ‘small violations’ – Israel Hayom

Candidly Speaking: A balance sheet on President Trump 

July 25, 2018

Source: Candidly Speaking: A balance sheet on President Trump – Opinion – Jerusalem Post

He has – by and large – neutralized the disastrous impact of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who in his prime objective to achieve peace, discarded some of America’s long-standing allies.

BY ISI LEIBLER
 JULY 24, 2018 21:50
Candidly Speaking: A balance sheet on President Trump

US President Donald Trump’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin served to increase the paranoia about him to an all-time high. He was accused of “failing America,” acting “shamefully” and “disgracefully,” and even committing “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Former CIA chief John Brennan went so far as to call his performance “treasonous.”
Trump certainly blundered when commenting on the similarity in behavior of the current Russian and American intelligence sources. This followed his outbursts during an earlier meeting with the Europeans in relation to NATO. Even Republican supporters rubbed their eyes in incredulity at some of his remarks to Putin. Yet, even following this barrage of criticism, Trump announced last week that he had invited Putin to Washington.
Nobody can deny that Trump behaves like a buffoon and has a penchant for vulgarity. He shoots from the hip, says what he thinks, often contradicts himself and incessantly posts juvenile tweets. He has made many errors and impulsively introduced regulations with total disregard for details, such as the restrictions on immigration, thus creating considerable chaos that could have been averted.
On the other hand, he has – by and large – neutralized the disastrous impact of his predecessor, Barack Obama, who in his prime objective to achieve peace, discarded some of America’s long-standing allies, groveled to the Iranian terrorist state, and in the process, diminished America’s global influence.
Trump started his presidency with a call for “America First” that enraged his opponents who linked it to pre-World War ll fascism.
A REVIEW of the facts will help evaluate his overall performance.
• The economy
Trump has introduced a series of economic measures – decried by his opponents – but the outcomes of which have been significant positive indicators in the economy and a sharp upturn in the stock market.
• Immigration
In his determination not to follow the disastrous example in Europe, he imposed strict limitations on immigration, refusing to permit the country to be flooded by Islamic migrants. Although introduced clumsily, Trump’s immigration policy will historically be recognized as a wise decision.
• China
After demanding a more balanced trade relationship with China and warning against ongoing theft of American technology, he stunned the world by imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese government-subsidized goods that were undercutting US products. He threatened to extend this to vehicles. The Chinese responded by imposing tariffs on American goods, accusing Trump of starting a trade war and breaching the terms of the World Trade Organization. Time will tell, but many believe that Trump will be vindicated and that China will compromise on a fairer export policy and that America’s disastrous negative trade balance will be reversed.
• Europe and NATO
Trump shocked the Europeans and horrified their leaders by questioning the value of NATO and its members’ dependence on American largesse. He warned that the US would go it alone and no longer pour US taxpayer money into subsidizing the Europeans unless they shouldered the burden of their defense, raising their military spending from 2% to 4% of gross domestic product. He noted that Germany, the most powerful European nation, currently spends a mere 1.25% of its GDP on defense.
This created an upheaval. But the bottom line is that they will deliver, and Trump will be vindicated.
• Iran
Trump has clearly intensified the war against terrorism. He has broken with the Iranians and is in the process of imposing powerful sanctions, which could lead to the collapse of the regime.
• North Korea
Trump personally initiated direct top-level negotiations with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an attempt to persuade him to denuclearize. Although the outcome is far from assured, these negotiations are themselves an unprecedented achievement.
• Russia
Putin’s Russian Federation is an authoritarian state but a far cry from the totalitarian Soviet Union. Whether there is any truth in the allegations that Russia meddled in the US elections, few genuinely believe such actions altered the outcome.
Despite their major differences, in particular in their attitudes toward Iran, both Putin and Trump pledged to cooperate and work jointly to combat terrorism.
Trump was bitterly castigated in the US for adopting this approach with the Russians. But if he succeeds in easing tensions, avoiding a new Cold War and increasing cooperation even to a limited degree, this too will be recognized as a significant positive achievement.
• Israel
As far as most Israelis are concerned, Trump’s election has proved to be God’s gift to them. Trump is the first American president to formally announce the alliance of the US with Israel and assure the Israelis that the United States will back them if they were embroiled in conflict.
He brought an end to Obama’s biased policy of moral equivalence between Israel’s defensive measures and Palestinian terrorism, and has refused to maintain the façade that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate man of peace. He also drastically cut back US aid to the Palestinians.
He has made it very clear that the US will not tolerate the Palestinian diversion of millions of aid dollars to reward terrorists and provide pensions to their families.
The administration placed full blame on Hamas for the Gaza escalation of terrorism, accusing them of “pushing Israel to engage in increasingly significant acts of defense.”
Trump’s UN representative, Nikki Haley, aggressively defends Israel and condemns its biased critics. The US also withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council, an organization dominated by tyrants and rogue states, which the Trump administration accused of hypocrisy and bias against Israel.
Despite howls of global protest and unlike his predecessors, Trump has fulfilled his electoral promise to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.
In another unprecedented turn of events, following their recent meeting, Trump and Putin issued an astonishing joint press statement in which they explicitly proclaimed their commitment to “work together to ensure the security of Israel.” Trump said, “I think that working with Israel is a great thing, and creating safety for Israel is something that both President Putin and I would like to see very much.”
TO SUM UP, Trump is clearly calling the shots and rearranging the existing global order.
From an Israeli viewpoint, Trump has – to date – been like manna from heaven. That does not mean we endorse all his actions, and we continue to squirm at his cruder outbursts.
But despite the great schism in American politics since his election, Trump has gone a long way toward reversing the damage inflicted by Obama. He is disliked by most global leaders, but he is feared and has demonstrated his ability to deal positively with many international issues that have, until now, been ignored. His supporters can only hope that despite his erratic temperament, he stays the course.
While the Democrats are likely to win seats in the upcoming Congressional elections, there is a strong chance Trump will be reelected in 2020, especially if the current radicalization of the Democratic candidates is not reversed.
The writer’s website is wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at ileibler@leibler.com.

Double whammy female IDF officer downed Syrian jet and drone 

July 25, 2018

Source: Double whammy female IDF officer downed Syrian jet and drone – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

( AND she’s quite pretty… – JW )

Cpt. Or Na’aman, commander of the Patriot battery of the 138th battalion, also commanded interception of Syrian drone two weeks ago

BY ANNA AHRONHEIM
 JULY 25, 2018 12:35

Cpt. Or Na'aman, commander of the Patriot battery of the 138th battalion, also commanded interceptio

As the commander of the Patriot Battery of the 138th Battalion, Na’aman was also in charge of the interception of a Syrian drone which fell south of the Lake of the Galilee  almost two weeks to the day of the downing of the jet.

The Syrian Sukhoi fighter jet was intercepted Tuesday by two Patriot missiles launched from Safed after the jet penetrated 2 kilometers into Israeli airspace. The pilot identified Colonel Umran Mare of Tartous was confirmed to have been killed.

Israel says it shot down the the jet after it entered Israeli airspace from the Golan Heights border, and while it is now believed that the pilot likely made a navigation error, the incident is still considered by Jerusalem as a serious breach of Israeli sovereignty.

Syria confirmed that the plane, which was partaking in an offensive against Islamic State group fighters in the Yarmouk basin, was downed by Israel but denied that it crossed into Israeli airspace.

According to a report by the Ynet news site, Russian officials protested the downing of the jet claiming that it had not breached Israeli airspace. Israel then presented clear radar images which “unequivocally” proved that the Syrian jet had flown into Israel.

On Tuesday, a Lebanese newssite quoted a Syrian military officer as saying that Damascus has no intention of rushing into a war with Israel after the downing of the plane, but “the response to the downing of the jet will come soon enough.”

“You will not have to wait long for a response, but we’ll get there in a few steps, firstly we need to finish all the ongoing military operations in the country. The direct response to the Israeli forces will come at an appropriate time. The final step will be thwarting any attempts to remove the Syrian allies from the region,” he was quoted by El Nashra.

“In Tel Aviv they are aware that the situation that was before the civil war is different from what will be after. It must be careful not to light the kind of fire that it will not be able to extinguish later. Israel shot down the plane knowing it was a Syrian plane in the Syrian airspace,” the source added.

Acting Charge d’ affairs of Syria’s permanent delegation to the UN Munzer Munzer said Tuesday that Damascus had informed the UN Security Council that Israel has given “unlimited support” to terror organizations in southern Syria and has carried out “repeated military direct aggression” in the war-torn country.

Syria, he was quoted by the SANA news agency as saying , would not negotiate or relinquish its rights to the Golan Heights until “our occupied territory be fully restored.”

“Israel also continues its colonial settlement campaigns in the occupied Syrian Golan and the policies of repression against Golan citizens, looting their resources and arresting the Syrian people in a blatant violation of Geneva treaties,” Munzer said.

Syria says response to fighter jet’s downing ‘will come soon enough’ — report 

July 25, 2018

Source: Syria says response to fighter jet’s downing ‘will come soon enough’ — report | The Times of Israel

Official tells Lebanese news site ‘Damascus is in no hurry to enter a war with Israel’ but promises a reaction; Russia said to protest to Israeli officials over incident

View of the trail left in the sky by a Patriot missile that was fired to intercept a Syrian jet entering Israel from Syria, as seen in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

View of the trail left in the sky by a Patriot missile that was fired to intercept a Syrian jet entering Israel from Syria, as seen in the northern Israeli city of Safed, on July 24, 2018. (David Cohen/Flash90)

A Syrian official warned Tuesday night that his country will respond “soon enough” to the IDF shooting down a regime fighter jet after it entered Israel’s airspace, according to a Lebanese news site.

“Damascus is in no hurry to enter a war with Israel,” the unnamed source told El Nashra, but added that “the response to the downing of the jet will come soon enough.”

The official claimed Israel supports “terrorist centers” in southern Syria and shot down the jet to stop the regime’s operations against them.

The first step of the Syrian response would be to complete operations against those centers, he said. Afterwards “the direct response to the Israeli forces will come at the appropriate time.”

The third part of the response would be to “foil any attempt to push Syria’s allies away from the (border) area.”

Israel said it shot down the Sukhoi-model jet with a pair of Patriot missiles Tuesday after it entered some two kilometers inside Israel territory in the Golan Heights. The plane crashed inside Syria, reportedly killing its pilot.

File: A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 bomber taking off from the Hmeimim airbase in the Syrian province of Latakia, October 3, 2015. (AFP/Komsomolskaya Pravda/Alexander Kots)

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said Israel tried to contact the pilot several times but received no response, and so proceeded to intercept.

According to the Ynet news site, Russia protested Israel’s actions, with officials claiming the fighter had not breached Israeli airspace as Jerusalem has claimed. Israel subsequently provided them with a clear radar image proving its assertion, the report said.

The Kan public broadcaster reported that Israel had warned Moscow of the potential of military “spillover” into Israel as the regime’s forces continue to advance against rebel forces in the border area.

Kan reported that the IDF has filed a complaint with UNDOF, the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights, over the jet incident. Though Israel believes the fighter pilot likely made a navigational error while carrying out bombing runs against rebel-held areas, officials still view the incident as a serious breach of Israeli sovereignty, it said.

The IDF is on “elevated alert” along the northern border because of the fighting on the Syrian side of the fence, military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said.

Danon said Israel seeks “no escalation in the region” but will protect its border.

“Israel will not tolerate any violation of our sovereignty — not from Syria, not from Gaza, not from any other enemy that threatens our security,” he said.

A picture taken on July 24, 2018 from the Tal Saki hill in the Golan Heights shows smoke rising above buildings across the border in Syria during air strikes backing a Syrian-government-led offensive in the southwestern province of Daraa. (AFP/ JALAA MAREY)

Syrian rebels surrendered their last pockets in the southwestern Quneitra and Daraa provinces last week, leading thousands of opposition fighters, their families and other civilians to evacuate to the rebel-held province of Idlib in northern Syria.

On Tuesday, government forces reached the border fence where a UN peacekeeping force is deployed at the edge of the Golan Heights for the first time since 2011, when an uprising swept through Syria against President Bashar Assad.

Minutes before the reported downing of the jet, Syria’s state-run Al-Ikhbariya TV was broadcasting footage from the fence demarcating the UN buffer zone between Syrian and Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. A UN observer post could be seen just on the other side of the fence. The camera showed an Israeli post 400 meters (440 yards) away.