Thursday Reads: Putin Gets Payback from PuppetPosted: December 20, 2018
So I’m still coughing constantly, my ribs ache from it, and I’m so tired. I’ve gone through three boxes of Kleenex in the past few days. How much longer can this go on, Dr. Luna? If only the old-fashioned remedies pictured in this post were still available (just kidding).
Meanwhile, it’s looking like Putin is pressuring Trump to pay up for all the help he’s been getting from Russia. Is this what they discussed in the private meeting in Helsinki? And Turkey’s Erdogan may be threatening to take Trump’s name off his Istanbul properties.
Yesterday, the Trump administration announced plans to lift sanctions from Oleg Deripaska’s companies. Deripaska is the Russian oligarch with ties to Paul Manafort. In addition Trump ordered all U.S. troops removed from Syria; he did this without consulting anyone at the Pentagon or the State Department and without warning our allies.
U.S. President Donald Trump overrode his top national security aides, blindsided U.S. ground commanders, and stunned lawmakers and allies with his order for U.S. troops to leave Syria, a decision that upends American policy in the Middle East.
The result, said current and former officials and people briefed on the decision, will empower Russia and Iran and leave unfinished the goal of erasing the risk that Islamic State, or ISIS, which has lost all but a sliver territory, could rebuild.
Trump was moving toward his dramatic decision in recent weeks even as top aides tried to talk him out of it, determined to fulfill a campaign promise of limiting U.S. involvement militarily abroad, two senior officials said.
The move, which carries echoes of Trump’s repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change accord, is in keeping with his America First philosophy and the pledge he made to end U.S. military involvement.
A former senior Trump administration official said the president’s decision basically was made two years ago, and that Trump finally stared down what he considered unpersuasive advice to stay in.
Read much more at the link.
Vladimir Putin is ebullient. The Washington Post: Putin backs Trump’s move to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, says Islamic State dealt ‘serious blows.’
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, describing the American presence there as illegitimate and the Islamic State as largely defeated on the ground.
Putin told journalists at his annual year-end news conference that the Islamic State has suffered “serious blows”in Syria.
“On this, Donald is right. I agree with him,” Putin said.
Trump said Wednesday that the Islamic State has been defeated in Syria, although analysts say the militant group remains a deadly force. Russia — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally — turned the tide of the civil war in Assad’s favor in 2015 and has maintained its military presence there.
The United States and many of its allies denounced Russia’s military intervention in Syria. But Trump’s withdrawal is viewed by many — including some Trump backers — as an indirect boost for Moscow and its status as the main foreign power in Syria.
Putin is so full of himself that he’s even lecturing Theresa May. The Guardian: Putin tells May to ‘fulfil will of people’ on Brexit.
Vladimir Putin has said the UK should not hold a second referendum on Brexit, insisting Theresa May must “fulfil the will of the people”.
Offering public support that the embattled British prime minister may rather do without, Putin said he “understood” May’s position in “fighting for this Brexit”.
“The referendum was held,” the Russian president said from Moscow during his annual press conference, which is broadcast on national television. “What can she do? She has to fulfil the will of the people expressed in the referendum.”
Russia is seen as a possible beneficiary of the UK’s exit from the EU, and a prominent financial backer of the leave campaign, Arron Banks, met Russian embassy officials repeatedly during the run-up to the referendum in June 2016.
In a nod to recent accusations of election meddling, Putin coyly suggested he was hesitant to give advice on Brexit “lest they accuse us once again of something”.
But he then went on to criticise the idea of a second referendum or “people’s vote”, which could offer the possibility of Britain staying in the EU. A no-deal Brexit has recently become significantly more likely, with May’s deal expected to be rejected by the UK parliament.
“Was it not a referendum?” the Russian president said. “Someone disliked the result, so repeat it over and over? Is this democracy? What then would be the point of the referendum in the first place?”
Putin, the expert on democracy.
And then there’s Erdogan. What does he have on Trump? The two spoke on Friday. The Military Times reports: Erdogan: Positive answers in call with Trump, but says Turkey could act against US-backed Syrian Kurds ‘anytime.’
Turkey’s leader said Monday he received “positive answers” from President Donald Trump on the situation in northeastern Syria, where Turkey has threatened to launch a new operation against American-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters.
Turkey has vowed to launch a new offensive against the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which is the main component of a U.S.-allied force that drove Islamic State militants out of much of eastern Syria. U.S. troops are based in the area, in part to reduce tensions.
Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group because of its links to the Kurdish insurgency within its territory. Ankara views Washington’s support as empowering of the Kurdish militia, which is seeking an autonomous region in northern Syria….
Erdogan said Turkey is waiting for the U.S. to keep its promises but could launch a new offensive “anytime.” He said the Turkish army has completed preparations and planning.
The two countries reached an agreement last summer over the town of Manbij, whereby the Kurdish militia would leave and Turkish and American troops jointly patrol the area. Turkey says the U.S. has stalled on implementing the agreement.
Yahoo News: Trump’s ‘Green Light’ to Erdogan on Syria Leaves Dilemma on Iran.
(Bloomberg) — Turkey and Iran are wasting little time as they seek an advantage in Syria after President Donald Trump’s order to withdraw American troops from the war-torn country.
Less than an hour after Trump’s abrupt decision on Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani’s plane touched down in Ankara for a previously planned visit. The Iranian leader was given a gun salute at a welcoming ceremony with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the following day.
“There are many steps that Turkey and Iran could take together in order to end the conflict in our region and establish an atmosphere of peace,” Erdogan said during a joint news conference with Rouhani.
Trump tweeted that it’s “time for others to finally fight,” questioning if the U.S. wants “to be the Policeman of the Middle East.”
Erdogan and his Russian and Iranian counterparts, Vladimir Putin and Rouhani, have emerged as the key arbiters of Syria’s fate. Now the dilemma for Turkey, a U.S. NATO ally, is whether to deepen ties with Iran or try to curtail its influence.
Trump’s order represents another shift in the rapidly changing landscape around Syria, with the U.S. this week making a proposal to sell the Patriot missile-defense system to Turkey. Days earlier, Erdogan threatened to start a military operation targeting America’s Kurdish allies, a group known as the YPG, in northeastern Syria.
I thought Trump despised Iran, but I guess not.
More stories to check out:
In other news, Robert Mueller appears to be gearing up to indict Roger Stone. He requested a transcript of Stone’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, and the Committee voted this morning to give it to him, according to MSNBC.
In other breaking news, Matthew Whitaker has been told he doesn’t need to recuse himself from supervising the Mueller investigation. CNN exclusive:
Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has consulted with ethics officials at the Justice Department and they have advised him he does not need to recuse himself from overseeing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, a source familiar with the process told CNN Thursday.
The source added Whitaker has been in ongoing discussions with ethics officials since taking the job in early November following the ouster of Jeff Sessions, who had stepped aside from overseeing the investigation due to his role as a Trump campaign surrogate during the 2016 election.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein oversaw the investigation following Sessions’ recusal and his office is still managing the investigation on a day-to-day basis, as CNN has previously reported.
When, exactly, ethics officials signed off on Whitaker’s role was not immediately clear, but as of last month, he had not stepped aside from participating in significant developments in the Russia investigation. He was informed ahead of time that Trump’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen would plead guilty to lying to Congress about the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.
Whitaker is expected to inform senators, many of whom have raised ethics concerns given his past criticism of Mueller’s investigation, about this development later Thursday, the source said.
No wonder Mueller seems to be in a hurry lately.
That’s all I have for you today. What stories are you following?