MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER SYRIA: Why Iran did not attend the Europe-Russia-Turkey summit on Syria
Hamidreza Azizi November 12, 2018 – AL MONITOR – Article Summary – While some have questioned Iran’s absence at the recent four-way summit on Syria between the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Turkey, the reality is that Iran likely saw only negative outcomes stemming from its participation in the meeting at this time. The leaders of Turkey, Russia, France and Germany met Oct. 27 in Istanbul for a summit to discuss the ongoing developments regarding the Syrian crisis. In a final statement issued after the summit, the four sides emphasized Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as the necessity of continuing the fight against terrorism in the war-torn country. They also underlined the need for resolving the Syrian crisis through a “negotiated political process,” while calling for providing conditions for the “safe and voluntary return of refugees to Syria.” The quartet also supported the Sept. 17 Russian-Turkish deal in Sochi on de-escalating the situation in Idlib.
Turkey Brief is a weekly intelligence summary (INTSUM) produced by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). This ISW INTSUM series sheds light on key trends and developments related to the Turkish government’s objectives and its efforts to secure them.
Reporting Period: October 20 – November 6, 2018
Authors: Elizabeth Teoman with Jennifer Cafarella, John Dunford, Paul Becker, and Kieran Hatton
Key Takeaway: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is attempting to pressure U.S. President Donald Trump into making new concessions in Syria by threatening an offensive against the primary partner of the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition in Northern Syria. Erdogan has not yet set the military conditions required to follow through on this threat. He most likely intends to use the threat of violence to win political concessions that roll back the gains won by Syrian Kurds along the Syrian-Turkish Border. He is nonetheless setting long-term conditions to challenge security and governance structures established by the U.S. Anti-ISIS Coalition in Eastern Syria by exploiting seams between local Arabs and Kurds.
MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : IMPORTANT ARTICLE BY FEHIM TASTEKIN (AL MONITOR)
READ IN: Türkçe – Fehim Tastekin November 12, 2018 – Article Summary – Turkey is itching to go on the offensive against Kurdish forces in areas east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, but the US role in the area continues to act as a deterrence. Tensions have risen in northern Syria amid threats by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to intervene in areas east of the Euphrates River and Turkish artillery fire on Oct. 26 against Tell Abyad, Kobani and Zor Mughar. The Turkish attacks, which Ankara claims killed 16 fighters from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), came the day after Erdogan held a summit in Istanbul with the leaders of Germany, France and Russia.
“We will eradicate the terror structure east of the Euphrates,” Erdogan asserted, referring to Syrian Kurdish groups that Turkey considers PKK affiliates. “We have completed our preparations and plans. Soon we will crush the terror outfit.”
Charles ListerVerified account @Charles_Lister 12 Nov 2018 – #pt: As #Syria‘s northwest de-escalation continues [while slowly eroding], #HTS‘s internal divides are becoming clearer — one side doubling-down on a pragmatic posture to achieve survival // another seeking to advance gradual escalation to re-emphasize/rescue jihadi credibility.
The General Syrian Conference of the #HTS-backed Syrian Salvation Government has come to a compromise resolution regarding the flying of the Syrian revolution…
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A NEW ERA OF A NEW & LASTING FRIENDSHIP ISRAEL & CHINA Israel-China Ties: A Developing Friendship that is Cause for Concern?
MESOPOTAMIA NEWS MIDEAST SPECIAL
עברית – Galia Lavi, Doron Ella – INSS Insight No. 1104, November 12, 2018
The Israel-China Innovation Conference, held in Jerusalem on October 24-25, 2018, signals a new era in Israel-China relations. Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan attended the conference, heading a large delegation of senior officials and businessmen; Wang is the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Israel since 2000. It thus appears that the upgrade of political relations between the two countries matches the tightening of economic relations. At the same time, criticism has been voiced in Israel regarding Chinese investments in Israeli infrastructure, charging that Chinese investments in critical transportation infrastructure are liable to harm Israel’s national security. These voices are calling on the government to devise a regulatory system to assess and regulate foreign investments in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu too is currently urging the establishment of an entity to examine foreign investments in Israel, which will likely also deal with Chinese investments.
This is a welcome initiative, which should define industry sectors considered strategic assets that are not for sale or for investment that would facilitate control by foreign parties. Overall, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is correct in arguing that Israel’s economic relations with China are welcome and should be expanded for the good of the Israeli economy. On the other hand, critics are right that Chinese investments in Israel should be scrutinized further to ensure the state’s independence and national security.
The Israel-China Innovation Conference, held in Jerusalem on October 24-25, 2018, signals a new era in the Israel-China relations that have developed over the past two decades. Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan attended the conference, heading a large delegation of senior officials and businessmen; Wang is the highest ranking Chinese official to visit Israel since 2000. Some regard his visit as an upgrade of relations and a welcome sign of the developing friendship between the countries; others in Israel call on the government to exercise caution and limit Chinese involvement in Israel’s economy out of concern for national security and Israel’s relations with the United States. The correct perspective lies somewhere in the middle.
The Innovation Conference, a mechanism established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, serves as an annual platform for dialogue and cooperation between Israeli and Chinese government ministries. The conference is also an opportunity for visits by senior officials and an occasion to sign cooperation agreements in trade and investments. For example, the opening of negotiations for a free trade agreement was announced at the 2016 conference, and an upgrade of relations to an “innovative comprehensive partnership” was announced at the 2017 conference. In 2018, ministers and deputy ministers from 13 Chinese government ministries joined the Chinese vice president at the conference. Of these, the highest ranking was Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang; Jack Ma, chairman of the Alibaba ecommerce group, made his second visit to Israel, and other leading business figures from China attended. Some eight cooperation agreements in science and technology, life sciences, innovation, digital health, and agriculture were signed in the framework of the conference. In addition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Wang signed a new three-year plan for the conference.
Government sources noted with satisfaction that the visit to Israel by the Chinese Vice President upgrades the level of political contacts with Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “This is the most important visit by a Chinese leader in the past 18 years. This is a sign of the developing friendship between us.” In 2000, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Israel, but not long after the Phalcon incident occurred, which prompted China to suspend visits to Israel by its high-ranking leaders.
Moreover, Israel-China relations have grown closer in recent years, certainly in the economic sphere. In 2017, the volume of bilateral trade (excluding diamonds and Hong Kong) totaled $9.67 billion: one third comprised Israeli exports to China, with the rest Israeli imports from China. Israeli companies also exported $753 million in business services to China in 2017. In 2018, China became Israel’s second largest trading partner after the US, ahead of the European Union. Exports to China rose substantially in the first half of the year, reaching $2.8 billion – 73 percent of the total for the preceding year – with electronics constituting the dominant export sector. The importance of China for Israel is also reflected in the widespread deployment of commercial attaches sent to China by the Ministry of Economy and Industry. There are currently six economic offices there, Israel’s most extensive deployment in one country. Furthermore, Chinese tourism has become more significant for Israel. In 2017, 113,000 tourists from China visited Israel, a 46 percent increase over the preceding year. At the same time, new direct Tel Aviv-Shanghai and Tel Aviv-Chengdu air routes were opened.
It thus appears that the upgrade of political relations between the two countries matches the tightening of economic relations. If so, does the dispatch of the Chinese Vice President to the conference signal that China has put past tensions behind it, and is this the main reason for the visit? This is by no means certain. Another possibility is that there is a connection between the visit and a much broader question – the developing trade war between China and the United States.
In recent months, the United States and China have increased the customs duties imposed on one another. The Trump administration has levied customs duties of over $250 billion on Chinese goods, while China has retaliated by imposing customs duties on American goods, although to a lesser degree. The United States is also examining Chinese investments in industrial sectors that are considered as critical to US national security more rigorously than before, especially those involving American technologies that could be used to upgrade Chinese military capabilities and contribute to China’s becoming a significant military rival.
In view of the tense relations between China and the United States, primarily due to accusations of the theft of advanced technologies and purchases of dual use equipment, some in Israel have warned policymakers of a possible clash with the United States resulting from sales of similar technologies to China. According to the IVC research center, which analyzes business information in the Israeli hi-tech industry, Chinese investments in Israeli hi-tech companies have almost tripled in the past five years (from $232 million in 2013 to $596 million in 2017). China also emphasized innovation in the recent visit, which culminated in the Chinese Vice President’s inauguration of the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. The business entourage accompanying Wang underscored China’s desire to continue cooperating with Israel in innovation and technology.
Criticism has also been voiced recently in Israel regarding Chinese investments in Israeli infrastructure. A Chinese company is building the new port in Ashdod, and another Chinese company is scheduled to exercise control over the operation of Haifa Port. Chinese companies are digging, wiring, and supplying equipment for the Tel Aviv light rail. The increase in these investments has alarmed former security figures, government figures, and analysts, who assert that Chinese investments in critical transportation infrastructure are liable to harm Israel’s national security. These voices are calling on the government to devise a regulatory system to assess and regulate foreign investments in Israel.
This criticism was voiced openly in many newspaper articles in advance of the Chinese Vice President’s visit to Israel. Some of the critics confined themselves to hints, while others made open statements that may have played a role in attracting attention in the United States to this question. According to a Channel 2 news report, at least three US administration figures have contacted Israel to clarify the nature of relations between China and Israel. These reports engaged the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which tried to ease the concerns of both its American colleagues and Israeli critics. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Deputy Director General for Asia-Pacific Affairs Gilad Cohen published an article in an effort to calm the critics, writing, “There is no question that every country has to safeguard its security and strategic infrastructure. But that is a far cry from the repeated statements, including in the media, to the effect that the Chinese should not be allowed to come to Israel – and such behavior even causes damage.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is correct in arguing that Israel’s economic relations with China are welcome and should be expanded for the good of the Israeli economy. On the other hand, the critics are right that Chinese investments in Israel should be scrutinized further to ensure the state’s independence and national security. Perhaps in defiance of the critics, Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the Innovation Conference that cooperation between China and Israel “has no restriction or limit,” but this statement cannot constitute a basis for practical and realistic policy.
Netanyahu himself is currently urging the establishment of an entity to examine foreign investments in Israel, which will likely also deal with Chinese investments. This is a welcome initiative, which should include a preliminary discussion to define industry sectors to be considered strategic assets that Israel does not plan to sell or allow investment that would facilitate control by foreign parties. Which sectors can be sold and where investment is allowed that might facilitate control by foreign parties should also be delineated. Industrialized democracies, such as Australia and the United States, have already defined such areas, and Israel can use their parameters for reference, with adjustments. The list of such assets can guide the entity to be established, but that is insufficient. It must also be ensured that the agency considers every foreign investment laterally, combining an assessment of the industrial sector in which the investment is made and all of the investments by the investing company, in the realization that Chinese companies tend to expand into areas that are not their original field of business. Such an examination will ensure that through government companies a foreign party does not hold concentrated investments or a monopoly that enables it to exercise direct or indirect influence on decision makers in Israel. www.mesop.de
MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : PKK/PYD(SDF) STAR A NEW! – SDF resumes anti-IS campaign after talks with US-led coalition
11 Nov 2018 ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Following intensive discussions with the US-led coalition, the General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday announced the resumption of military operations against fighters from the Islamist State (IS) in Syria’s eastern city of Deir al-Zor.
NORTH KURDISTAN (TURKEY)
Semih Idiz November 9, 2018 – AL MONITOR – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with his abrasive manners and undiplomatic approach to international affairs, is not an easy leader for the West to deal with. Love him or not, however, the West is showing once again that it can’t afford to ignore him. Because of this, Erdogan has enhanced his international image over the past few months, going from being a potential pariah in Western eyes to being viewed as an interlocutor who is by turns a regional game-changer, a potential peacemaker and even a champion of international justice.
MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : JOKING WASHINGTON ! – Washington’s plan to separate YPG from PKK won’t fool anyone in Turkey
BURHANETTIN DURAN @burhanduran – 10 Nov 2018 – DAILY SABAH – Ankara will never allow the YPG, or whatever the Americans intend to call it in the future, to represent Syrian Kurds at the negotiating table
The United States took a new step regarding its policy on Syria and the People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Tuesday by offering rewards for information “leading to the identification or location” of three senior leaders of the designated terrorist PKK organization: Murat Karayılan, Cemil Bayık and Duran Kalkan. The next day, James Jeffrey, Washington’s Special Representative for Syria, said that the United States did not consider the YPG, the PKK’s Syrian affiliate, to be a terrorist group. He added that Washington “understood” Turkey’s security concerns regarding the ties between the PKK and the YPG.
The question is why the United States took this significant step and what it hopes to accomplish.
MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : NETANJAHU’S NOT d’accord WITH PUTIN
Nov 7, 2018 @ 21:13 Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel-Russian dispute, James Jeffrey, S-300, Syria, Vladimir Putin
DEBKA FILES 8 Nov 2018 – Special US envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, said on Wednesday, Nov. 7, “We certainly hope Russia’s permissive approach will continue” for Israeli air strikes in Syria against Iranian targets, despite its supply of S-300 air defense systems to the Syrian government. He noted that Russia has been permissive about the flights in the past – in consultation with the Israelis. The American diplomat spoke after meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday, Nov. 5. However, DEBKAfile’s military sources have seen no sign of Moscow relenting. Quite the reverse; Moscow indicated this week that should Israeli jets enter Syrian airspace to attack Iranian targets, the S-300 would shoot them down.
Punitive measures Baghdad imposed on its Kurdish region have sent many Iraqi Kurds on dangerous journeys to Europe. – by Mariya Petkova – 30 Oct 2018 – AL JAZEERA
Zakho is a relatively prosperous town, with many families working in trade and transportation linked to the nearby Ibrahim Khalil border crossing between Turkey and the Kurdish region, the main gateway for the billions-worth of Turkish goods that Iraq imports. Like most Kurdish cities, it remained relatively safe and stable during the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and the subsequent war effort to dismantle it.
For the decade and a half since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Kurdish region prospered, its residents enjoying a much higher standard of living than the rest of the country. Yet over the past four years, large numbers of Iraqi Kurds have attempted the dangerous journey to Europe.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) currently does not release official statistics on legal and illegal emigration, says Abdel Majid Shoukri, the head of the office of the Ministry of Migration and the Displaced in Dohuk Province, where Zakho is located.