- News Reuters
Aides to Kim Jong Un are convinced the North Korean leader plans "a great operation", state media said on Wednesday in a report that included lavish descriptions and images of the leader riding a white horse up North Korea's most sacred mountain. In the photos released by state news agency KCNA, Kim is seen riding alone on a large white horse through snowy fields and woods on Mt Paektu, the spiritual homeland of the Kim dynasty. “His march on horseback in Mt Paektu is a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” KCNA said.
- News The Daily Beast
GAZIANTEP, Turkey-After eight years of Syrian civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, and the displacement of half the Syrian population, U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s decisions have created conditions for Bashar al-Assad’s regime to re-assert control over nearly one-third of the country that had been outside its grip since 2012. Far from reining in U.S. adversaries, Trump’s presidency will likely be remembered as one through which Assad, this century’s greatest mass murderer, managed finally to claw his way back to a position of undisputed authority. Trump Just Enlisted America in a New Axis of EvilThis is the way that’s playing out on the ground in what is, admittedly, still a complicated situation.The news began Tuesday morning with Russian pro-Kremlin journalist Oleg Blokhin streaming a live video from inside the recently abandoned American al-Sa’idi’a base in Syria on the western outskirts of the Manbij countryside. “Good morning to everyone from Manbij,” exclaimed Blokhin. “I’m at the American military base right now, where they were until yesterday morning. Already, we’re here [instead]. We’re going to examine now how they were living here, what they were so busy with, and what’s going on.” A second video would show Blokhin as he mockingly played with a boom barrier at the entrance to the base, appearing to check whether or not it worked. “It’s in good condition,” he assured the cameraman, with a slight grin. Blokhin, who works for the pro-Kremlin ANNA news network, previously covered the activities of Russian private military contractor Wagner as it trained pro-Assad militiamen in January, and later accompanied Russian and pro-Assad forces during the latter’s successful August campaign to take back the town of Khan Sheikhoun. Now, he stood gloating on a former U.S. military base. Other pro-Assad media soon conducted similar tours of other U.S. bases abandoned by American soldiers. Reports throughout the day Tuesday would also claim U.S. troops pulled out of two new additional locations including the eastern town of Tal Baydar and the Kharab Ashak base west of Ain Aissa. Shortly before U.S. troops withdrew, ISIS families still being detained at a nearby prison facility in Ain Aissa reportedly set fires throughout the camp in a renewed attempt to try to escape. In addition to exemplifying the momentous shift underway as Assad’s vital ally Russia finally replaces the United States as the primary party in northern Syria capable of liaising with most all of the parties to the conflict, Blokhin’s livestream carried a special significance for locals in Manbij. Over the past week, including several days after Trump’s shock announcement that U.S. troops would withdraw from Syria, American soldiers at the al-Sa’idi’a base actually continued carrying out near-daily patrols in the western and northern Manbij countryside that helped successfully ward off previous attempts by Syrian regime forces to set up positions in the area. That offered hope to those in Manbij who oppose the regime-that U.S. military institutions might be capable of coercing the Turkish president to adopt a compromise that saw U.S. troops remain in the area until Turkish-backed forces were capable of assuming control. But those hopes along with more than 16 months of U.S.-Turkish diplomacy were dashed Tuesday as the American troops made their final withdrawal from the area, paving the way for Russian and Syrian regime forces to roll in free and unopposed. Elsewhere, in Ain Aissa and Tal Tamr, towns located along the M4 highway, northern Syria’s main artery and transportation route, Russian and regime forces established permanent checkpoints and bases to ensure control of the strategic route in the face of oncoming Turkish assaults. Those reinforcements appeared to have helped the SDF capture three villages from Turkish-backed forces in the immediate vicinity north of Tal Tamr later that night. While the arrival of regime forces undoubtedly has provided much needed relief for the SDF on several fronts, doing so will come with a cost. As the SDF welcomes more Syrian regime reinforcements into its territory, the group undoubtedly will lose future leverage it would need in order to preserve a role for itself within civil governing institutions throughout northeast Syria. On Monday, the SDF’s largely toothless civil wing, the Syrian Democratic Council, issued a directive to local councils in the area to continue to perform their duties “as previously,” insisting that “nothing has changed” and that the agreement with the regime constituted no more than a temporary military alliance to protect Syria’s borders. However it’s unlikely that the SDF, the Syrian Democratic Council, or other SDF-backed institutions within the group’s self-proclaimed “Autonomous Administration” will be able to preserve any modicum of independence as their reliance on the Assad regime becomes more solidified. And, following the failure of Russian-Turkish negotiations throughout Tuesday to reach a ceasefire between the warring parties, that reliance looks set to intensify. Negotiations between Moscow and Ankara began Tuesday morning following condemnation of Turkey’s campaign by the Kremlin’s special envoy to Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev. A high-ranking Free Syrian Army military source in Manbij told The Daily Beast that Turkey gave orders Tuesday morning to its FSA proxies to halt temporarily their assault while both sides attempted to reach a solution. During that time, numerous pro-regime demonstrations were held in Manbij as the Syrian army sent several armored tanks into the city. According to local sources on the ground, some of these demonstrations were led by pro-regime figures that previously had been arrested by the SDF but were recently released following the Russian and Syrian regime entrance to the city. The Russian-Turkish talks come one day after the official Facebook page for the Russian defense ministry’s Hmeimim base issued a stern warning for Turkey and its allies not to “behave recklessly in entering an open war with government troops.” That was issued shortly after the Russians allegedly concluded an agreement with the SDF to allow Russian and regime troops to enter the cities of Kobani and Manbij. Yet despite the repeated warnings and attempts to hold talks, by Tuesday night Turkish-backed forces re-launched their assault. Thousands of civilians fled the border city of Kobani as a result of renewed Turkish assaults on the city in an attempt by the latter to capture the site of a former U.S. base recently abandoned nearby. Shortly after, our military source would claim renewed orders had been given by Ankara to re-launch operations in Manbij by dawn. Speaking to Reuters while returning from the Azerbaijaini capital Baku, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared undeterred by recent U.S. sanctions imposed on Ankara, by the arrival of regime reinforcements into the area, or by international condemnation of his country’s assault. “They say ‘declare a ceasefire.’ We will never declare a ceasefire,” Erdogan said. “They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions.”Shortly after, local media and activists would report a Turkish airstrike on the strategic town of Aun al-Dadat, the site of a former U.S. base in the north Manbij countryside along the al-Sajur River that has since been occupied by SDF and regime units. Nawaf al-Mustafa, an activist living several miles away in Manbij city, said he could hear the explosion from his home. “I heard an explosion and thought it might have been an ISIS suicide attack,” he said. “But it wasn’t, news came in shortly after that Turkish forces instead were bombing Aun al-Dadat.”Look Who’s Back! Trump Handed Terrorists a Free Pass.Ahmed Qalqali, another anti-regime activist, would send out an alert to the families of FSA fighters to several WhatsApp groups used by locals to follow the news. “Any young man in Manbij who has a brother fighting on the front lines with the FSA should avoid sleeping at home tonight,” hinting at the possibility of SDF-regime house raids in response to the attacks. “Try to stay with a friend or someone to whom you’re not blood related.” Despite the Turkish insistence to continue fighting, in reality the tide seems to be turning against Ankara and its proxies. Despite managing to gain control of the strategic border town of Tal Abyad, after nearly one week of fighting Turkish-backed forces have been unable to capture Ras al-Ain, a city of just over 30,000 that has managed to put up stiff resistance and ward off Turkish incursions. Manbij, a city of nearly 100,000, will require much greater strength and political will in order to be captured.Recent U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on key Turkish ministers and cabinet officials will also likely further hamper Ankara’s ability to freely wage war against the SDF, while significantly raising the cost of doing so. Nonetheless, these factors are unlikely to push Erdogan to end the campaign, as domestic pressures to create space to resettle Syrian refugees that have proven a burden to the Turkish economy threaten to destabilize his government. What will likely ensue will be a committed, albeit slow and protracted campaign to achieve Ankara’s goal of carving out a safe zone in Manbij and along the entirety of Turkey’s border with Syria. However, the likely delay in achieving further Turkish gains will also give the Syrian regime a larger window to calmly mobilize and deploy its forces throughout the region while still being able to exploit the threat posed to the SDF by Ankara in order to slowly grab more power in northeastern Syria. Further, the expansion of Syrian regime troops throughout the area doesn’t seem to be a prospect that much bothers the Turkish president, so long as they don’t mix with SDF and other armed Kurdish elements. Also while speaking to reporters in Baku, Erdogan stated, “The regime entering Manbij is not very negative for me. Why? It’s their lands after all,” he said. “But, what is important to me is that the terrorist organization does not remain there… I told this to Mr. Putin as well. If you are clearing Manbij of terrorist organizations, then go ahead, you or the regime can provide all the logistics. But if you are not going to do this, the people there are telling us to save them.” By “terrorist organizations,” Erdogan means primarily the Kurds who were backed by the United States in the fight against ISIS.Such a statement from a head of state who for eight years has been among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Syrian revolution to topple Assad is indicative of the extent to which international calculus surrounding the Syrian issue has changed. It will likely encourage the Assad regime to consider the possibility of going after and eliminating the SDF itself if doing so may once and for all put an end to the activities of their meddlesome Turkish neighbor. Such a prospect may occur as part of a broader swap or deal whereby Turkey would also agree to withdraw its troops from the broader Idlib region, where Ha’it Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), an offshoot of al Qaeda’s former Syrian branch, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other FSA groups have been engaged in a bloody standoff with the Syrian regime for over a year.Erdogan’s statements make perfectly clear that, following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops, the cards increasingly lie in the hands of the Assad regime and its Russian ally. Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.
- News CBC
Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg of Sweden 'doesn't understand' Alberta, environment minister says
Alberta's environment minister says Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg "doesn't understand" the province, and signalled the government won't be laying out the welcome mat for the 16-year-old's upcoming visit.Speaking to reporters outside the Alberta Legislature on Tuesday, Environment Minister Jason Nixon said Thunberg hasn't reached out to the UCP government, and the government has no plans to contact her."I do hope that if she does come to our beautiful province, she takes the time to talk to our state-of-the-art industry partners, who are working tirelessly to continue to produce the most ethical and environmentally friendly oil and gas products in the world," Nixon said."When you look at some of Ms. Thunberg's comments, she doesn't understand our province," Nixon said later, adding Thunberg needs to realize that Alberta must be an active partner in any global climate-change strategy.On Saturday, Thunberg announced on Twitter she will travel to Alberta after a series of appearances in the United States.Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson used the same medium Tuesday morning to extend a welcome to the climate activist."I'd love to invite you to [Edmonton's] city hall to discuss the Edmonton Declaration and some of the environmentally friendly projects we're working on," Iveson tweeted to her."Regardless of where you visit, I wish you nothing but the best."NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that while she doesn't agree with every idea Thunberg proposes, she agrees "we need to move forward with concrete strategies to reduce our emissions."She also said the UCP government must "stop distracting from the fact that people across the world are concerned about climate change.""We need to be leaders; we don't need to be cowards."
- News The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON - The impeachment inquiry is revealing vivid new details about the high-level unease over President Donald Trump's actions toward Ukraine, and those of his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as the swift-moving probe by House Democrats showed no signs Tuesday of easing.The testimony from the witnesses, mainly officials from the State Department and other foreign policy posts, is largely corroborating the account of the government whistleblower whose complaint first sparked the impeachment inquiry, according to lawmakers attending the closed-door interviews.One witness, former White House aide Fiona Hill, testified that national security adviser John Bolton was so alarmed by Giuliani's back-channel activities in Ukraine that he described him as a "hand grenade who is going to blow everybody up."Another, career State Department official George Kent, testified Tuesday he was told by administration officials to "lay low" on Ukraine as "three amigos" tied to the White House took over U.S. foreign policy toward the Eastern European ally.Speaker Nancy Pelosi, despite intensifying calls from Trump and Republicans to hold a formal vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry, showed no indication she would do so. She said Congress will continue its investigation as part of the Constitution's system of checks and balances of the executive."This is not a game for us. This is deadly serious. We're on a path that is taking us, a path to the truth," Pelosi told reporters after a closed-door session with House Democrats.With Ukraine situated between the United States' Western allies and Russia, Pelosi noted the inquiry raises fresh questions about Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin."All roads seem to lead to Putin with the president," she said.Democratic leaders had been gauging support for a vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry after Trump and Republicans pushed them for a roll call. Holding a vote would test politically vulnerable Democrats in areas where the president is popular.Trump calls the impeachment inquiry an "illegitimate process" and is blocking officials from co-operating.But several Democratic freshmen who are military veterans or had careers in national security before joining Congress spoke up during the meeting Tuesday, warning Pelosi and her leadership team a vote was unnecessary and would be playing into Republicans' hands, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private session.The inquiry is moving quickly as a steady stream of officials appear behind closed doors this week, some providing new revelations about the events surrounding the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. It is on that call that Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate a firm tied to political rival Joe Biden's family and Ukraine's own involvement in the 2016 presidential election.In a daylong session Tuesday, House investigators heard from Kent, who was concerned about the "fake news smear" against the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump recalled in May, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.Kent told the lawmakers that he "found himself outside a parallel process" and had warned others about Giuliani as far back as March. He felt the shadow diplomacy was undermining decades of foreign policy and the rule of law in Ukraine and that was "wrong," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.Connolly said Kent described the results of a May 23 meeting at the White House, organized by Trump's acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, where three administration officials - U.S. ambassador Gordon Sondland, special envoy Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry - declared themselves the people now responsible for Ukraine policy."They called themselves the three amigos," Connolly said Kent testified, and they said as much to Zelenskiy in Ukraine when they visited.Kent also told them that Trump, through the Office of Management and Budget, which Mulvaney previously led, was holding up military aid to Ukraine while pressing Zelenskiy to investigate a company linked to Biden's son."He was clearly bothered by the role Mr. Giuliani was playing," Connolly said.In 10 hours of testimony Monday, Hill, the former White House aide who was a top adviser on Russia, recalled to investigators that Bolton had told her he was not part of "whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up," an apparent reference to talks over Ukraine.She testified that Bolton asked her to take the concerns to National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg.As White House lawyers now try to learn more about the handling of the Ukraine call, Eisenberg is coming under particular scrutiny, said one White House official. He was both the official who ordered that the memorandum of the call be moved to a highly-classified system, and the one who involved the Justice Department in a complaint from the CIA general counsel. The latter caught the attention of the president, according to the official.Giuliani said Tuesday he was "very disappointed" in Bolton's comment. Bolton, Giuliani said, "has been called much worse."Giuliani also acknowledged he had received payments totalling $500,000 related to the work for a company operated by Lev Parnas - who, along with associate Igor Fruman, played a key role in Giuliani's efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation against Biden and his son Hunter. The two men were arrested last week on campaign finance charges as they tried to board an international flight.Trump's team won't comply with the Democratic inquiry. Giuliani and Vice-President Mike Pence became the latest officials refusing to co-operate, saying through their lawyers they would not provide information requested by House Democrats as part of the impeachment inquiry.The chairman leading the impeachment investigation, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the stonewalling simply bolsters the charge that Trump is obstructing Congress."The case for Congress continues to build," Schiff said. He said Defence Secretary Mark Esper told investigators Sunday that he would comply with a subpoena request, only to be "countermanded" by a higher authority, likely Trump.Sondland, whose text messages with other diplomats are part of a cache released by Volker and made public earlier this month, is scheduled to appear for an interview Thursday.The interviews Monday and Tuesday, like the others conducted by House impeachment investigators, took place behind closed doors. Republican lawmakers have aimed their ire at the process, saying witnesses should be interviewed out in the open.Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Democrats were trying to "cancel out" Trump's election with the march toward impeachment.Five more officials are scheduled this week, mostly from the State Department, though it is unclear if they will all appear.Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who resigned last week, is scheduled to testify Wednesday. McKinley, a career foreign service officer and Pompeo's de facto chief of staff, resigned Friday, ending a 37-year career.Once Democrats have completed the probe and followed any other threads it produces, they will use their findings to help determine whether to vote on articles of impeachment.__Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Michael Balsamo, Eric Tucker, Matthew Lee, Padmananda Rama, Andrew Taylor and Alan Fram in Washington and Jonathan Lemire in Dallas contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick And Laurie Kellman, The Associated Press
The front will possibly bring flash flooding to the Gulf states before pushing north with heavy rain and high winds.