Pentagon Pushes Kurdish Coalition Into Solo Assault Upon ISIS Capital In Raqqa

[SEE:  Kurdish Coalition Key To Liberation of Manbij ]

raqqaFILE – Fighters of the Syria Democratic Forces held a watchful position near Raqqa, Syria, May 27, 2016.

The United States is doubling-down on its Syrian allies, insisting they are capable of planning and launching an assault to dislodge the Islamic State terror group from its self-styled capital of Raqqa.

For more than a week, officials have spoken of the urgent need to begin the assault on the IS stronghold despite concerns about the readiness of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the objections of allies, like Turkey.

But a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said Thursday the SDF is ready to at least start encircling the city while planning for its eventual liberation.

“We do believe that they have the expertise,” Col. John Dorrian told Pentagon reporters during a briefing from Baghdad.

“They were very successful in developing a plan for the liberation of Manbij,” he said. “And we believe that certainly, with coalition help, they can do the same in Raqqa.”

Airstrikes take out roads

Already, the U.S. says it has conducted more than 100 airstrikes to take out roads used by IS to move both fighters and supplies in and out of Raqqa.

But now officials say they want to “tighten the noose,” using 30,000 to 40,000 SDF troops to encircle and move towards the city to further reduce the ability of IS to maneuver.

Turkish opposition

The plan, though, has run into stiff opposition from Turkey, which has made it clear it wants the U.S. to wait.

“It would be better both militarily and strategically to conduct this operation after the Mosul operation and Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation are completed,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told reporters in Ankara on Monday.

Turkey has also voiced objections due to the make-up of the SDF, almost two-thirds of which is Kurdish.

Some of the most capable and effective of those Kurdish forces are People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization.

More forces needed

Further complicating matters is that even the U.S. admits not all the forces needed to liberate Raqqa from IS hands are in place.

“There is an intent to enlarge the force, and in particular, the Arab contingent of the force because we do understand that Raqqa is primarily an Arab city,” said Operation Inherent Resolve’s Col. Dorian.

“We intend to train as many of them as we possibly can,” he said, adding that once recruited, the new forces could be ready to fight within a couple of weeks.


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    Jeff Seldin

    Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent.

US servicemen may be charged for ‘aiding and abetting war crimes’ in Yemen

US servicemen may be charged for ‘aiding and abetting war crimes’ in Yemen – Congressman


US military personnel may be subject to war crimes probes if the Saudi-led coalition hits civilian targets in Yemen because the US refuels the coalition’s jets, Ted Lieu warned in a letter to Pentagon chief Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry.

A man stands on the rubble of a prison struck by Arab coalition warplanes in al-Zaydiyah district of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen October 30, 2016 © Abduljabbar Zeyad

READ MORE: At least 60 killed by Saudi-led coalition airstrike at Yemeni prison

Lieu, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives and a former US Air Force lawyer, argued that while the US distanced itself from reviewing and selecting targets in Yemen, it nevertheless could bear responsibility for the Saudi-led coalition air strikes if they hit civilians, as American tankers refuel jets on bombing missions.

“The US would appear to be violating the LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] and international standards by engaging in such direct military operations if US personnel are not aware if targets are civilian or military, of the loss of life and property are disproportional, or if the operation is even military necessary,” Lieu wrote in an official letter from November 2, asking to “clarify the role of the US” in the war in Yemen.

He reminded the addressees that the first concerns about US servicemen in Yemen potentially being involved in the breach of the war conduct were raised by the State Department lawyers in October. However, “the Administration nevertheless chose to proceed to aid and abet the Coalition,” he pointed out.

By turning a blind eye to what type of targets the US is exactly helping to destroy, Washington has shown “willful blindness,” Lieu writes, adding that the situation seems to be deteriorating for the US as more evidence on Saudi-led coalition strikes on civilian targets, such as hospitals, schools, markets and peaceful processions like weddings and funerals emerges.

READ MORE: US calls for ‘end to Saudi-led airstrikes’ in Yemen, but keeps selling arms to Riyadh

“By now, the US has knowledge that, in the past 18 months, coalition jets have struck civilian targets multiple times,” he says, citing Amnesty International’s estimates that coalition jets in Yemen have carried out “at least 70 unlawful airstrikes.”   

The increasing number of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign brings US servicemen “at legal risk of being investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing war crimes,” Lieu says. He adds that they can be found guilty under both international and US law.

The Saudi-led coalition was accused of war crimes following the deadly airstrike on a funeral on October 8, that left at least 140 people dead and hundreds injured. The ceremony was held for the late father of a senior Houthi official. Upon internal investigation carried out by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), the coalition issued an apology, calling the bombing “an unintentional incident,” while blaming it on misleading intelligence.

In the aftermath of the incident, US vowed to conduct an “immediate review” of its support for the coalition, with White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price saying in a statement that US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a “blank check.”

Leaders of Kurdish Democratic Party Arrested, Major Car Bomb Rocks Diyarbakir

Deadly blast rocks Turkish city of Diyarbakir after ‘Kurdish Obama’ detained

the independent


‘Will the Turkish government abide by the internationally accepted standards of parliamentary democracy? This is the basic question,’ says politician from Kurdish-backed party

diyarbakir-bomb-ap.jpgA car bomb has exploded in Diyarbakir, southeastern Turkey, killing one person and wounding around 30 others.

The attack in the country’s largest Kurdish-majority city followed the overnight arrests of the two leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) along with up to 11 other MPs from the group, whose support base is largely made up of Kurds from the region.

Selahattin Demirtas, dubbed the “Kurdish Obama” by admirers for his charismatic speaking style, and Figen Yuksekdag were detained at their respective homes in Ankara as part of a counter-terrorism investigation, security sources told Turkish media.

The provincial governor’s office in Diyarbakir said a car bomb went off around 8am on Friday. The office said in a statement that Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) militants were believed to be responsible.

The bomb went off near a police station in the Baglar district where the politicians arrested in Diyarbakir had been taken, a security source said. The explosion resounded through the city and ambulances rushed to the scene.

A series of deadly bomb attacks have hit Turkey in the past 18 months. The country remains under a state of emergency that was imposed after a failed coup in July. The emergency allows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.

The MPs were reportedly arrested after they failed to appear in court to testify in ongoing terrorism-related investigations.

Police searched the HDP’s head offices in central Ankara as well as making the arrests, the BBC reported.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Whatsapp were reported to be inaccessible inside Turkey shortly after the arrests, even when users tried to circumvent restrictions using a virtual private network.

Mr Demirtas had tweeted about his arrest before the sites were restricted.

Associated Press

The HDP is the second largest opposition group in parliament.

Turkey says the HDP has links to the PKK, which is classified as a terrorist organisation, but the party strongly denies this.

The PKK have waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s south-east.

An HDP MP who is currently abroad, Ertugrul Kurkcu, told the BBC that the detentions were “totally unlawful”.

“This crackdown tonight is nothing to do with procedural law, criminal law, any law whatsoever or the constitution. This is an unlawful hijacking of HDP parliamentarians,” he said.

”The Turkish government is heading towards a dictatorship of Nazi style. Will the Turkish government abide by the internationally accepted standards of parliamentary democracy? This is the basic question.“

Additional reporting by Reuters and Associated Press.

Saudi Diplomat Likens Illegal War On Yemen To Domestic Violence

Saudi Ambassador To US Compares Bombing Yemen To Beating One’s Wife


by Sameera Ehteram

Prince Abdullah Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States’ response to a journalist’s question on the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, was mind-blowing to say the least.

“Will you continue to use cluster weapons in Yemen?” the reporter asked.

Al-Saud had the audacity to laugh before answering: “This is like the question, ‘Will you stop beating your wife?’”

“If anyone attacks human lives and disturbs the border, in whatever region, we’re going to continue hitting them, no matter what,” the prince added.

Interestingly, he made the audacious remarks just a few days after one of his fellow countrymen was sentenced to three days in prison for biting his wife and beating her up.

The Specialized Criminal Court in the capital city of Riyadh also sentenced the aggressor to 30 lashes in a public place, in the presence of his wife unless she decides not to be present.

Saudi Arabia, though not one of the greatest places to be a woman, has legislation protecting women, children and domestic workers against domestic abuse.

The “Protection from Abuse” law is the first of its kind in the ultra-conservative country, which has often faced international criticism for lacking laws that protect women and domestic workers against abuse.

Under the 17-article bill, those found guilty of committing psychological or physical abuse could face prison sentences of up to one year and up to 50,000 riyals ($13,300) in fines.

Read More: Historic Domestic Abuse Legislation Passed In Saudi Arabia

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Yemen’s Houthi movement since March 2015. It wants to restore the internationally recognized president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was driven into exile by the supposedly Iran-allied Houthis in late 2014.

Airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition have been blamed for the majority of the estimated 10,000 deaths so far.

Laughing off either the war and its resulting devastation or an issue as serious as domestic abuse is not only insolent but also shows that the neither Kingdom nor its representatives realize the terrible depths of both the issues.

This Is What Yemen Looks Like After Saudi Arabia’s Military Operation