… In which the Turkish invasion of northern Syria brought into focus the competing visions various states have for the future of the country.
Following days of heavy shelling the Turkish military crossed the border with ground troops and heavy armour into the Afrin region controlled by Syrian Kurds. Turkey fears a Kurdish controlled border will strengthen Turkey’s rebellious Kurds. There have been casualties on both sides and civilians are caught in the fighting.
The politics of this is multi layered. Russia had withdrawn troops from the area despite being friendly with the Kurds. They don’t want to fall out with Turkey, yet, even if it has invaded a Russian ally. Syria’s other ally, Iran, has also kept mostly quiet, as it is comfortable with Kurdish power being reduced. They have their own Kurdish issues. Both Russia and Iran view Turkey as a rival in the region, but for the moment – that can wait. It gets more complex.
President Trump spoke on the phone to President Erdogan this week about the crisis. Both men know the Americans support the Syrian Kurds, and they have Special Forces troops in the Manbij region. This week a Turkish shell fell in the area heightening concerns about the potential for one Nato ally to inflict casualties on another – even if by mistake.
The American President ended the week at the Davos World Economic Forum landing a few hours after reports that he tried to fire Robert Mueller – the special counsel investigating him over Russian connections. Was it true he was asked – it was ‘FAKE!’ he said – before going on to explain why he was a tremendous President, that his economic policies put America First, but were also good for everyone…
America put ‘Freedom of Navigation’ first this week in the South China Sea. A Navy destroyer USS Hopper, sailed within 12 nautical miles of the Scarborough Shoal reef in the South China Sea. Beijing said this was a violation of its sovereignty – ‘no it wasn’t’ said Washington because the sovereignty is disputed. This was the first ‘Freedom of Navigation’ operation in the region this year undertaken by the U.S. Navy.
Venezuela’s courts banned the opposition coalition from registering candidates in the upcoming presidential election. The ‘election’ is scheduled for April 30th. Many governments are likely not to recognize the results.
Right – who’s going to win Egypt’s Presidential election scheduled for late March? I’ll take a wild guess – President Sisi of Egypt…
This week one of his rivals – Lieutenant General Sami Anan was arrested for violating military rules by announcing his candidacy without seeking their approval. He was accused of inciting against the armed forces. Funnily enough – the very next day another candidate dropped out. Last month another contender, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq dropped out saying he realized he was “not the ideal candidate to lead the country’s affairs in the coming period”.
Speaking of popularity contests – it seems it is more difficult to thread a camel through the eye of a needle than hide that it might have been injected with Botox. 12 Camels were disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s annual camel beauty contest after receiving botox to make their pouts looks more alluring. Well, there is about $4 million in prize money at stake. This story galloped around the globe and few people in the English-speaking media could resist the attraction of ending coverage with the words… ‘the disqualified owners are reported to have got the hump.’