Trump administration playing with fire with plan for 30,000-strong force including Kurdish militias, Ankara warns
Syrian Democratic Forces fighters in Raqqa, Syria . The force is dominated by the Kurdish YPG, which to Ankara is indistinguishable from the PKK, which it regards as a terror group . Photograph: Rodi Said/Reuters
Russia said it also opposed the plan, warning it could lead to the partitioning of Syria . For its part, the Syrian regime vowed to win back control of the entire country, including by removing any form of US-backed Syrian Kurdish force . The US plan was a blatant attack on Syrian sovereignty, Syria2 said. The US-led coalition on Sunday announced its plan to build a Syrian security force, one of the few insights into the Trump administration s longer-term thinking for Syria.
Relations between Turkey and the US have been unravelling in recent weeks, partly due to rows over the president s planned visa restrictions . Turkey is also angry at the support the US continues to provide to the Syrian Kurdish forces3 that formed the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which led the military assault on Islamic State troops based in Raqqa. The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish YPG, and the plan for a so-called border force, including 15,000 SDF veterans, dashes Turkish hopes that the US would abandon the YPG once the war against Islamic State came to an end . Turkey regards the Kurdish YPG militia as indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK) operating inside Turkey, which it regards as a terror group.
The force will deploy along the border with Turkey to the north, the Iraqi border to the south-east and along the Euphrates river valley, which broadly acts as the dividing line separating the US-backed SDF and Syrian government forces backed by Iran and Russia. Ibrahim Kalin, the spokesman for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdo an, said Washington is taking worrying steps to legitimise this organisation and make it lasting in the region .
It is absolutely not possible for this to be accepted, he said, adding that Turkey will continue its fight against any terrorist organisation regardless of its name and shape within and outside its borders . Turkey s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozda , said the US border force plan was playing with fire, and had not been the subject of consultation with other national forces in the coalition fighting Islamic State.
Turkey, a Nato member, said it would shortly mount an assault on the Kurdish-held Syrian north-western town of Afrin, close to the Turkish border. The Syrian government warned it considers any Syrian who participates in these militias sponsored by the Americans as a traitor to their people and nation, and will deal with them on this basis . The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, giving his annual foreign policy press conference, described the US move as provocative and unilateral.
Russia and Iran, at the invitation of the Syrian government, are planning to keep forces inside Syria once the conflict ends .
The planned border force may be seen as a bargaining chip, showing the US also has a stake in Syria s future, including a tool with which to press Russia to negotiate on Assad s future. The US has about 2,000 troops in Syria and has said they will stay in the country until it is certain Islamic State is defeated, and progress is made in UN-led peace talks in Geneva on ending the conflict . The US is frustrated Russia has not put pressure on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad to negotiate at Geneva, but instead is pressing ahead with its own peace talks, the Syrian national dialogue congress scheduled this month at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Security at the Boxing Day Ashes test in Melbourne will be beefed up after a car ploughed into pedestrians in the city this week. Police said officers will be “highly visible” both inside and outside the cricket ground for the fourth test between England and Australia the day after Christmas. Widespread bag searches will also be taking place. A dozen people are still in hospital after 19 pedestrians were injured when an SUV driven by 32-year-old Saeed Noori, ploughed into Christmas shoppers outside Flinders Street station on Thursday. Victoria Police’s assistant commissioner Stephen Leane said: “Our presence won’t disappear when play is finished. “Whether you are heading home or into the city, fans will see police right across Melbourne.” Transport hubs, popular tourist spots, such as Federation Square, and routes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground will see increased patrols.
Victoria premier Daniel Andrews urged people to remain vigilant. :: Melbourne witnesses recount the horror: ‘People were flying’1
Image: Australia won the Ashes urn back in the last test on December 14
He said: “Victoria Police have the resources and have the resolve to do everything that needs to be done to keep the community safe. “If it takes a bit longer to get your bag searched, that’s being done for your safety and I would ask that you are patient, that you are as cooperative as you possibly can be and that you remain vigilant.
“If you see something that you don’t think is right, speak to one of the many members of Victoria Police that will be out and about over this really busy period.” Noori, an Australian citizen of Afghan heritage, is still in custody. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said police have not identified any terrorism link2 to Noori, but added nothing should be ruled out.
Image: Saeed Noori was arrested when his car crashed after ploughing people down
The suspect has a history of mental illness and drug abuse, police said. Mr Turnbull added: “This was a despicable and cowardly act. “But I want to reassure Australians that this is an isolated incident.
“We should continue to go about our daily lives the way we always do.”
England will take on Australia in the fourth out of five Ashes tests after a disappointing first three matches in which the team lost the urn.
- ^ Melbourne witnesses recount the horror: ‘People were flying’ (news.sky.com)
- ^ police have not identified any terrorism link (news.sky.com)
- ^ Dawid Malan says England team spirit ‘fantastic’ despite Ashes series loss (news.sky.com)
Enhanced security measures that caused thousands of rugby fans to miss the kick off for the Australia match are here to stay, said a defiant Welsh Rugby Union on Saturday evening. Rugby fans missed kick off for the opening autumn international because of huge queues to get into the Principality Stadium on Saturday. Supporters were left standing in the rain outside several gates as a result of enhanced security checks because of the unprecedented terror threat in the UK.
Fans queuing at the stadium as the game kicks off Fans queue at the stadium
Stadium chiefs had warned fans to get to the stadium early1 , with every supporter due to be searched for the first time ever . A warning was also issued stating large bags and umbrellas would not be allowed into the ground.
TV pictures inside the Principality showed scores of empty seats as the players emerged from the tunnel, with BBC TV presenter John Inverdale raising the issue on air . A crowd of more than 66,000 was due at the match. The WRU said after the match: “Enhanced security measures ensure everybody entering Principality Stadium is checked on arrival at the turnstiles . For the Under Armour Series, we have doubled the pre-game opening hours to three hours to give fans the opportunity to avoid the queues and we have made every effort to communicate to supporters to plan to arrive early and leave large bags and large umbrellas at home to avoid missing kick off.
“We received great support from all of our partners, including the media, South Wales Police and Cardiff Council, getting this message out in the build up to today s event.
“The safety and enjoyment of our visitors is of paramount importance.
“Welsh rugby fans are renowned for their contribution to the fantastic atmosphere inside the venue and vital support they give to the team on the pitch.
“Today thousands of fans enjoyed our new and improved pre-match entertainment schedule from three hours before kick-off, including live music and early bird offers at our retail units.
“It is important to stress that these security measures are here to stay and we don t want anyone to miss kick off.
“We will continue to urge supporters to allow more time for getting in to the stadium in future, as these checks are vital to the safety of all attendees.”
Thousands of fans remain in queues with just two minutes before the start of the game. (Image: Peter Bolter)
Tom Lee-wah from Cardiff said the price of the ticket didn’t warrant having to queue and miss part of the match. Another fan said she had been waiting for nearly half an hour in the rain.
“We’ve missed the great atmosphere now . Normally we like to go in and get a drink and take it all in before the match starts but we have missed all that.
“We were told we should come earlier because of the security check but we did come thirty minutes before kick off.”
Several fans took to social media to vent their frustration about the situation, with some describing scenes of chaos at the crowded gates. One, Tom Lewis, reported being stuck in a queue for an hour with no sign of movement, while fans at Gate 7 told WalesOnline they had no chance of making kick-off despite turning up 40 minutes before the scheduled start time.
Supporter Hattie Jones tweeted the Principality Stadium, saying: “We’ve been queuing for 65 minutes but are still told the queue is more than 60 minutes . Five minutes away from kick-off . Are there any refunds available.”
Cardiff MP Stephen Doughty called the crowd handling at Gate 1 an “utter shambles”. He said in a tweet he’d “never known it so bad in 18 years” and had reported his concerns to South Wales Police and the WRU.
There were also reports of female fans getting to the front of queues only to be sent to other queues by male stewards who were unable to search women. The WRU issued a detailed warning to fans earlier this week but it appears many were unaware just how thorough the checks would be in comparison to previous games. Small bags and handbags were permitted, provided they were no larger than 35cm x 40cm x 19cm.
- ^ Stadium chiefs had warned fans to get to the stadium early (www.walesonline.co.uk)