Hi, I’m Zoe Licata, back with Newscoop’s Under the Radar for March 12-18.
We have two important developments to highlight for you. And although both of them have been reported, the implications each holds for other really important matters seem not to have received much attention.
First, on the continued upheaval in the Trump Administration. Both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe were sacked this week by Donald Trump. Those firings could have disturbing ramifications for what might come next.
To replace Tillerson at State, Trump has appointed his current CIA director, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo has actively worked against the Iran nuclear agreement, and also supports regime change in North Korea. He even referred to President Barack Obama as “an evil Muslim communist.” Pompeo has Trump’s ear, and as Secretary of State he will be in a position to direct much in foreign policy. Pompeo’s push for military action while taking on an even more powerful position has many hoping war is not on the horizon.
And the firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe on March 17th, just 26 hours before his retirement and pension were to take effect, was decried by policymakers on both the right and the left. McCabe said pointedly that his firing was an effort by the Trump administration to diminish his credibility as an important corroborating witness for special counsel Mueller regarding James Comey’s interactions with Trump.
As if on cue, Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd almost immediately called for Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to put an end to the Mueller investigation into Trump and Russia — citing McCabe’s firing as proof that the Mueller investigation could not be trusted.
In response, Vice Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Mark Warner, tweeted: “Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now.”
And far from Washington, in northwestern Syria, Turkish President Erdogan’s battle against the neighboring Kurdish population continues to unfold. Erdogan is concerned that an independent Kurdish region in Syria would assist Turkish Kurds in waging efforts for their own independence from Turkey. So he’s been fighting to weaken the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and push them back from the Turkish border. Turkish troops and affiliated Free Syrian Army forces have since January 20th been assaulting the strategic Kurdish-majority town of Afrin.
On February 24th, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a 30-day ceasefire throughout Syria. When the United Nations, French President Macron, and the European Union all called upon Erdogan to respect the ceasefire, he responded belligerently: “Don’t get your hopes up. We will only leave Afrin once our work is done.”
Erdogan’s forces finally surrounded and overtook Afrin on Sunday, announcing that Afrin had been “liberated.” The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that some 150,000 inhabitants of the city had fled in recent days.
Here are the implications: The Kurds are a longtime trusted ally of the United States, and have been instrumental in defeating ISIS. However, Erdogan’s overriding political agenda is in wiping the Kurds from any areas that neighbor Turkey, and in defeating any Kurdish independence efforts in his country. In the absence of both U.S. support for the Kurds and U.S. leadership in the Middle East, there’s not much of a check on Erdogan’s actions. With the U.S., Russia, Turkey, Iran, the Gulf Arab states, Hezbollah, Jordan and Israel all now involved in Syria, Erdogan’s military adventures add to a growing complexity in the already very-complex proxy war in Syria.
This has been Newscoop’s Under the Radar. Tune in next week for another review of important stories that are getting too little attention.
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