The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Roy Gutman, McClatchy Washington Bureau

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops conducting a resupply mission to a small Turkish military post inside Syrian territory were ambushed and detained Wednesday by Islamic extremists affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, according to Turkish media reports.

The troops were later returned to Turkey, news outlets in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa said. But it wasn’t clear what happened to the four armored personnel carriers they’d been traveling in. One report said ISIS had kept the vehicles, which had been seen flying ISIS flags.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday confirmed that a convoy had been sent to the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The tomb lies about 15 miles inside Syria, but Turkey claims sovereignty over the area under a 1921 territory. Erdogan said the convoy had been sent to deliver supplies to the Turkish military contingent assigned to guard the tomb.

He did not, however, mention the ISIS ambush or the abduction of the Turkish troops, an incident that could put Turkey’s military, widely regarded as the region’s best equipped, on a collision course with ISIS, whose militants are fighting both Syrian government forces and other anti-government rebel groups for control of eastern Syria.

“Right now, the issue is not about ISIS,” he told reporters in Ankara. “The job of our convoy is to transfer aid to the Suleyman Shah tomb.”

The Turkish military said the dispatch of the convoy was a planned activity, and nothing out of the ordinary.

Local news reports said the vehicles crossed into Syria from the Sursitpinar border gate and were ambushed near the town of Manbij. The troops — the exact number was not reported — were then taken to Manbij and later repatriated to Turkey, Sanliurfa.com reported, citing local Syrian sources and another unidentified source.

The news portal, without naming its source, said that the vehicles, after their capture, were being driven about with ISIS flags on them.

In mid-March, ISIS demanded that Turkey abandon its military outpost at the tomb and threatened to attack and destroy it. This apparently gave rise to a secret conversation among top Turkish officials about whether Turkey should seize the opportunity to take on ISIS, an Iraq-based offshoot of al-Qaida that is also fighting the Iraqi government for control of western Iraq and is considered a serious menace to regional stability. Al-Qaida leaders denounced the group earlier this year for disobeying orders to withdraw from Syria, where another rebel group, the Nusra Front, is al-Qaida’s recognized affiliate.

A recording of the secret conversation about a possible incursion into Syria was posted on YouTube and proved deeply embarrassing to the Erdogan government, which launched a major investigation to find the source of the security breach. The government also blocked access to YouTube and Twitter in an effort to halt dissemination of the recording.

According to news accounts, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu can be heard on the recording saying that “without a strong pretext,” Turkey would not receive support for an intervention into Syria from the United States or other allies. The chief of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, reportedly responded that “if needed, I would dispatch four men to Syria” and “have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war.” He added: “We can also have them attack the tomb of Suleyman Shah as well.”

If the government was seriously considering doing anything at the time, it was put on hold following the publication of the discussion.

Based on the scanty details available Wednesday, it wasn’t possible to determine whether the resupply convoy was a genuinely routine operation or a probe to test ISIS’ intentions.

Adem Altan AFP

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Jessica Cisneros

It’s a race that has some Democratic voters scratching their heads: a young, progressive primary challenger versus a pro-life, conservative Democrat who received an A-rating from the NRA. The primary race between one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, Representative Henry Cuellar, and Jessica Cisneros has become a lightning rod within the Democratic Party.

Cuellar declared victory, but as of Wednesday morning, major media outlets have said the race is too close to call. He is just a couple hundred votes ahead of his Cisneros in Texas' 28th Congressional District primary. When neither candidate won a majority in the March 1 primary, the two highest vote-getters faced each other in Tuesday's run-off election.

Keep reading... Show less

School shooting in Uvalde, Texas

Youtube Screenshot

Fox News responded to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, by interviewing experts who pushed controversial, counterproductive models to reduce gun violence in schools. One of these experts advocated for introducing more weapons into schools through arming teachers and staff, a policy firmly rejected by teachers unions and researchers. Another called for increased active shooter response trainings-- a service his company provides -- which have also been found to be ineffective at preventing casualties.

As news out of Uvalde was still developing, Fox News’ Jesse Watters invited Laura Carno -- the executive director of FASTER Colorado, which advocates for arming school staff -- on his show, where she compared arming teachers and other school personnel to arming pilots. “We all feel really comfortable with the armed pilot program, where some pilots are armed on some flights,” Carno said. “We don't know which ones, and we feel pretty good about that. It's a very similar kind of thing to armed school staff programs.”

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}