Foreign Affairs

Turkey’s relationship with the West crumbles amid new jail sentence for American journalist

A Wall Street Journal reporter’s sentencing by a Turkish court this week, to two years behind bars by “spreading terrorist propaganda,” marks the latest in the government’s escalating hostility not only with the press, but with any figure tied to the West. Ayla Albayrak — a dual Finnish-Turkish citizen — was tried in absentia, and thus won’t have to join the prison ranks unless she returns, but dozens of other western professionals aren’t so fortunate. Serkan Gölge, a 37-year-old NASA scientist of Turkish descent, who was vacationing with family in the quiet southern town of Hatay recently was arrested by the government, as was Turkey-based American pastor Andrew Brunson, who had been residing in Turkey without incident for more than 20 years. Furthermore, Ismail Kul, a chemistry professor at Widener University in Pennsylvania and his real estate agent brother, Mustafa Kul, were apprehended in August last year while on summer vacation in Bursa. Then last week, Turkish authorities arrested U.S. consulate employee Metin Topuz on terrorism charges and this week, they announced that they were seeking a second unnamed U.S. consulate worker. In February, fellow consulate employee Hamza Uluçay too was abruptly detained. These are just a few of the many western-linked — most of whom hold dual citizenship in Turkey — who have been swept up in President Tayyip Erdoğan’s ongoing purge in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup attempt to remove him from power. The common thread with all who are being incarcerated? Suspected ties — however indirect, vague or unproven — to Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric who Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the coup despite his vehement denials, or to The Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. The Kurdish militant group is closely associated to The Women’s Protection Units or YPJ, who the U.S. is training and funding to fight ISIS in Syria. But any ties are considered terrorist ties and diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the United States seemingly have been escalating since the failed coup attempt and since the U.S. upped its support of People’s Protection Units or YPG in closing in on the ISIS-controlled Raqqa over a year ago. And those tensions hit a high this week, with governments in both countries precipitously suspending nonimmigrant visas for each other’s citizens. Some experts anticipate that things are likely to only get worse, and more westerners will be jailed or targeted inside the country as collateral damage, if the U.S. does not cave to pressure and agree to Gülen. “Bilateral relations with Turkey are deteriorating because President Erdoğan seeks to use the U.S. as a scapegoat to advance his political agenda and maximize his own political power,” Jim Phillips, senior research fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, said…

Agreed..   This story is developing..

China’s Secret Military Plan: Invade Taiwan by 2020

China has drawn up secret military plans to take over the island of Taiwan by 2020, an action that would likely lead to a larger U.S.-China conventional or nuclear war, according to newly-disclosed internal Chinese military documents. The secret war plan drawn up by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the Chinese Communist Party’s armed forces, calls for massive missile attacks on the island, along with a naval and air blockade that is followed by amphibious beach landing assaults using up to 400,000 troops. The plans and operations are outlined in a new book published this week, The Chinese Invasion Threat by Ian Easton, a China affairs analyst with the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank. The danger of a Taiwan conflict has grown in recent years even as current tensions between Washington and Beijing are mainly the result of U.S. opposition to Chinese militarization in the South China Sea and China’s covert support of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. “Of all the powder kegs out there, the potential for a war over Taiwan is by far the largest and most explosive,” the 290-page book states, adding that the growing likelihood of a war over Taiwan will dominate worries within the Pentagon for years to come. “China has made clear that its primary external objective is attaining the ability to apply overwhelming force against Taiwan during a conflict, and if necessary destroy American-led coalition forces,” the books says. Democratic-ruled Taiwan poses an existential threat to China’s communist leaders because the island, located some 90 miles off the southeast coast “serves as a beacon of freedom for ethnically Chinese people everywhere,” the book states. “Consequently, the PLA considers the invasion of Taiwan to be its most critical mission, and it is this envisioned future war that drives China’s military buildup.” Parts of the PLA invasion scheme were first revealed publicly by the Taiwan Defense Ministry in late 2013. The plan calls for military operations against the island to be carried out by 2020. The invasion program was confirmed by Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the major Communist Party meeting five years ago when Xi committed to “continue the 2020 Plan, whereby we build and deploy a complete operational capability to use force against Taiwan by that year.” Other internal PLA writings that surfaced recently indicate China is ready to use force when it believes non-military means are not successful in forcing the capitulation to Beijing’s demands, and if the United States can be kept out of the battle. Current U.S. law under the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act requires the United States to provide defensive weaponry to Taiwan to prevent the use of force against the island. China currently is using non-lethal means—psychological, diplomatic, propaganda, and informational warfare—against Taiwan. Once these are exhausted, the plan for large-scale amphibious assault will be carried out. Any attempt by the Chinese military to take the island will be difficult and costly, the book says. The island has rough, mountainous terrain that has created a wind tunnel effect in the strait that produces very difficult weather for carrying troop and weapons transports, both air and sea. Taiwan is around 230 miles long and 90 miles wide. Taiwanese military forces have been preparing for an invasion since Chinese nationalist forces first took refuge on the island at the end of the civil war with the communists in 1949. However, since the 1980s, China has been rapidly building up its military capabilities for a battle to forcibly unify the island with the mainland. Over 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles currently are stationed within range of Taiwan. According to the book, China’s invasion plan is known as the Joint Island Attack Campaign.

Definitely something to keep an eye on..   Bestselling author, and veteran defense writer Bill Gertz is responsible for that excellent piece.  Bill is very well connected in the defense community, and is a very credible source of information.  To read more, click on the text above.

Obama Admin Hid Intel on Iranian Militants in Syria to Push Nuclear Deal

The Obama administration likely hid information about Iran illicitly ferrying militants into Syria on commercial aircraft in order to promote the landmark nuclear deal and foster multi-billion dollar business deals with Tehran’s state-controlled airline sector, according to lawmakers and other sources familiar with the matter. The Washington Free Beacon first disclosed last week that congressional leaders are calling for an investigation into Iran for using its state-controlled air carrier, Iran Air, to ferry militant fighters into Syria, where they are taking up arms in defense of embattled President Bashar al-Assad. Photographs provided to Congress show Iran using Iran Air to ferry these soldiers between 2016 and 2017, in part when the Obama administration removed sanctions on Iran Air and promoted multi-billion dollars sales between the carrier and aircraft manufacturer Boeing, which is seeking to provide Iran Air with a fleet of new planes that many suspect will be used to carry terrorist fighters and weapons into regional hotspots. This behavior violates international laws governing the nuclear deal and has now led lawmakers and others to accuse the Obama administration of downplaying Iran’s illicit activity in order to promote the nuclear deal and ensure Tehran receives a new commercial fleet. Multiple senior Obama administration officials, including former secretary of state John Kerry, traveled the globe to promote trade with Iranian companies, including Iran Air, at the same time Iran was found to be ferrying militants into Syria. Lawmakers and others suspect the Obama administration either hid or downplayed this information in order to preserve the nuclear deal. “The Obama administration lifted sanctions against Iran Air as a political concession during nuclear negotiations with Iran, not because of any change in its activity,” Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), one of the lawmakers calling for an investigation into Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes, told the Free Beacon. “Using social media and public flight tracking websites, any person with a computer can document Iranian military transports to Syria on commercial jets,” Roskam said. “The Obama administration undoubtedly knew Iranian airliners were being used to fuel Assad’s atrocities in Syria, but the administration officials who were globetrotting as Tehran’s chamber of commerce trying to shore up the nuclear deal didn’t care.” “Iran Air continues to support the Iran-Assad war machine to this day, and the Trump administration must hold the airline accountable and work to stop them,” the lawmaker said. Roskam and a delegation of other Republican congressmen petitioned the Trump Treasury Department last week to investigate photographic evidence showing Iran using Iran Air to ferry militants into Syria. “Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes violates international agreements as well as Iranian commitments under the JCPOA,” or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the lawmakers wrote..

This is one of those stories you won’t see anywhere in the dominantly liberal mainstream media.  And, with what’s going on in Texas, this is getting buried “below the fold.”

Trump to China President Xi: N Korea nuclear threat will end ‘one way or another’

President Trump, at the start of his meeting Saturday in Germany with Chinese President Xi Jinping, called the Asian nation a “great trading partner” and said the increasing North Korea nuclear threat will eventually be resolved “one way or the other.” The much-anticipated meeting was one of several Trump and top administration officials had Saturday with world leaders at the close of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. But it was considered perhaps the most critical. China is North Korea’s largest trading partner, which gives the country considerable influence over Pyongyang and its growing threat, which includes developing a nuclear warhead and launching long-range missiles to transport them. Trump told Xi that putting an end to North Korea’s nuclear missile testing “may take longer than I’d like, it may take longer that you’d like. But there will be success in the end one way or the other.” “Something has to be done,” the president also said. Xi also spoke briefly, but his comments in Chinese were not immediately translated and available. Saturday’s meeting also focused on trade between the two nations. Trump said “many things have happened” that have created trade imbalances between the United States and China but “we’re going to turn that around.” The president was flanked in the meeting room by about a dozen top administration officials including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and adviser Jared Kushner. The meeting followed a long-range missile test launch by North Korea on Tuesday, which a Pentagon spokesman said was a type not previously seen by U.S. analysts. Following the missile launch, Trump expressed frustration with China over its expanding trade with North Korea. Trump had expressed optimism after his first meeting with China’s president that the two would work together to curb North Korea’s nuclear pursuits. The president tweeted Wednesday, “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!” China has long resisted intensifying economic pressure on neighboring North Korea, in part out of fear of the instability that could mount on its doorstep, including the possibility of millions of North Koreans fleeing into China. China has also been concerned that a reunited, democratic Korea — dominated by South Korea — would put a U.S. ally, and possibly U.S. forces, on its border. Tillerson on Tuesday vowed “stronger measures” to hold North Korea accountable. “Global action is required to stop a global threat,” he said. Tillerson also said any country helping North Korea militarily or economically, taking in its guest workers or falling short on Security Council resolutions “is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime.” However, his statement did not specifically mention China.

..of course not.  That would not be well received by China.  But, we’re quickly approaching the point at which we really shouldn’t care whether we cause Xi some embarrassment.  This whole catering to the Asian saving face cultural nonsense is…well..nonsense.  We’ve been playing footsie with them for DECADES now.  Clearly it’s not working.  Their trade with the DPRK is up 40% in the last quarter, for crying out loud!  That’s hardly putting pressure on that regime.  If China won’t help us with N. Korea, then we need to take serious and substantive action, regardless.  If N. Korea really does have an ICBM that can reach Alaska, then mere “economic sanctions” and so on is hardly sufficient.  It’s time to end this decades-long chess game, and remove the Kim dynasty once and for all.

Opinion/Analysis: Trump Should Copy Reagan and End Détente — with China

President Trump seems resigned to the expectation that China will be of no help in resolving the North Korea challenge. That he (and his predecessors) ever believed otherwise is the most salient evidence of the consensus by successive U.S. administrations that a soft touch toward the People’s Republic of China is in order because it is a growing, influential power. Soon, so the argument goes, the PRC will be the largest economy in the world and an able military power, capable of altering outcomes in ways detrimental to the United States. The U.S. must avoid confrontation lest this burgeoning power react in kind. Wrong. It’s the same thinking — yes, in a quite different context and time — that led earlier presidents to accept accommodation with the USSR during the Cold War. Ronald Reagan recognized that the policy benefited the Soviet Union and that Moscow was in no position to dictate terms once pressure was applied. President Trump should take this approach toward the PRC. Doing so would lead to a more cooperative China. There are several manifestations of America’s 21st-century détente policy toward Beijing beside Washington’s failure to hold Beijing to account over its rogue client regime in Pyongyang. These include the tepid U.S. response to China’s outlandish claims of sovereignty in the East and South China Seas, and Washington’s overall reluctance to acknowledge and counter Beijing’s growing military capabilities; complete silence as the PRC has violated at least the spirit if not the letter of its agreements to let Hong Kong develop with its own political system since the British handover in 1997; and the snubs, by presidents of both parties, to democratic Taiwan in ways large and small, to avoid irking China. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals on China policy so far. The president-elect’s call to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen and near-mocking of the PRC when it stole a U.S. Navy drone during the post-election transition have been supplanted by the president’s apparent desperation to be liked by China’s president and by his declaration in a media interview that his very presence in office caused China to end the currency manipulation of which Candidate Trump had accused Beijing. In the aftermath of Pyongyang’s abuse and murder of U.S. college student Otto Warmbier, the president tweeted plaintively that he appreciates that President Xi tried to help with North Korea — with no apparent indication that Xi did any such thing — but that the assistance isn’t working. The administration’s most persistent point of contention with Beijing is the U.S. trade deficit with China. Otherwise, it appears that the only consistency in the administration’s China policy is inconsistency. But a tough, even confrontational U.S. across the policy spectrum is needed. Beijing’s foreign-policy belligerence is meant to distract from its internal social and economic problems. This posture will moderate if it is met firmly by the U.S. and our Asian allies.

Agreed..   To read the rest of this insightful op/ed by Therese Shakeen, click on the text above.

Donald Trump Meets Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko After Sanctioning Russian-Backed Separatists

President Donald Trump met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Tuesday as his administration imposed sanctions on Russian-backed separatists in the country. Trump said the two had “very, very good discussions,” calling Ukraine “a place that we’ve all been very much involved in.” Behind the scenes, the White House revealed that Trump and Poroshenko discussed support for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced sanctions on two Russian officials and several separatists in Eastern Ukraine to support the Ukrainian amidst ongoing Russian-backed conflicts in the region. “This administration is committed to a diplomatic process that guarantees Ukrainian sovereignty, and there should be no sanctions relief until Russia meets its obligations under the Minsk agreements,” Mnuchin said Tuesday. Poroshenko said it was a “great pleasure” to meet with Trump to discuss issues important to Ukraine and called the president a “supporter and strategic partner” of the country. “We’re really fighting for freedom and democracy,” he said.

We’re thrilled to hear Trump is meeting with Petro!  Excellent!!    🙂

Cuba deal rollback: Trump says he’s nixing Obama’s ‘one-sided’ pact

President Trump, speaking at a Miami theater associated with Cuban exiles, announced Friday he is nixing his predecessor’s “one-sided deal” with the Communist nation – moving to restrict individual travel to the island, crack down on the flow of U.S. cash to the Cuban military and demand key reforms in Havana. While stopping short of a full reversal, Trump said he would challenge Cuba to come back to the table with a new agreement. “Effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba,” Trump told a cheering crowd. Trump cast his announcement Friday as the fulfillment of a campaign pledge to turn back former President Barack Obama’s diplomatic outreach to the country. “I keep my promises,” Trump said. “And now that I am your president, America will expose the crimes of the Castro regime.” A cornerstone of the new policy is to ensure Americans traveling to Cuba only support private businesses and services, banning financial transactions with the dozens of enterprises run by the military-linked corporation GAESA. The Trump administration also says it will strictly enforce the 12 authorized categories allowing American citizens to travel to Cuba – banning one particular type of travel, known as individual “people-to-people” trips, seen as ripe for abuse by would-be tourists. Most U.S. travelers to Cuba will again be required to visit the island as part of organized tour groups run by American companies. Obama eliminated the tour requirement, allowing tens of thousands of Americans to book solo trips and spend their money with individual bed-and-breakfast owners, restaurants and taxi drivers. The rules also require a daylong schedule of activities designed to expose the travelers to ordinary Cubans. Trump focused his speech Friday on the crimes and misdeeds of the Castro government, saying his administration would not “hide from it.” He accused the regime of harboring “cop killers, hijackers and terrorists” while casting the policy changes as meant to encourage a free Cuba. “With God’s help, a free Cuba is what we will soon achieve,” Trump said. Critics of the United States’ decades-long freeze – and embargo – with Cuba say it failed to spur such changes, and had welcomed Obama’s outreach as a fresh approach. But many Cuban-American lawmakers recoiled. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a Cuban-American lawmaker who helped craft the new policy, spoke before the president in Miami on Friday and took a shot at Trump’s predecessor for his visit to Cuba last March. “A year and a half ago … an American president landed in Havana to outstretch his hand to a regime. Today, a new president lands in Miami to reach out his hand to the people of Cuba,” Rubio said.

Exactly!!  This is great news for the good people of Cuba who have been brutalized by the communist dictator Castro brothers for over half a century.  Outstanding!!   🙂