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The United States Of America Starts Pulling Out Troops From Syria

Ankara is banking on shared regional interests and the personal chemistry of Trump and Erdogan to prevent a new crisis.

USA, U.S., Syria
A line of US military vehicles drives through a checkpoint of the Internal Security Forces in Manbij as they head to their base on the outskirts of the northern Syrian city, Dec. 30, 2018. VOA

The U.S.-led coalition in Syria is beginning to remove troops from Syria.

The coalition “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria,” said Colonel Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S.-coalition fighting the Islamic State group. “Out of concern for operational security, we will not discuss specific timelines, locations or troop movements.”

Earlier this week, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton’s calls for the protection of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as a pre-condition to a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria angered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, causing the president to refuse to meet with the U.S. official.

The YPG is a crucial ally in Washington’s war against Islamic State but is considered by Ankara as a terrorist group linked to an insurgency inside Turkey.

Syria, U.S.
A former farmer at a primitive refinery makes crude oil into diesel and other products in Rmeilan, Hassakeh province, Syria, April 6, 2018. VOA

Erdogan also warned that preparations were complete for a military operation against the YPG. “We will very soon mobilize to eliminate the terrorist organization in Syria,” he said.“If there are other terrorists who would attempt to intervene in our intervention then it is our duty to eliminate them as well,” Erdogan added. Turkish forces have been massing for weeks along the Syrian border.

Observers said the threat of a Turkish operation against the YPG in northeastern Syria, where around 2,000 U.S. soldiers are deployed, was the reason for U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria. Once Trump announced his intention, Erdogan said Turkey would delay any operation until all U.S. forces left.

Ankara’s anger over preconditions announced by Bolton before any U.S. withdrawal, including security guarantees for the Kurdish militia, may have brought forward the timing of a strike against the YPG.

Last year, the Turkish currency collapsed after Trump hit Ankara with sanctions over the detention in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has since been released. Although the sanctions lasted only a few weeks, Turkey’s economy is now facing a recession. The lira fell sharply Tuesday on fears of renewed U.S.-Turkish tensions.

Syria, U.S.
Syrian Democratic Forces and U.S. troops are seen during a patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, Nov. 4, 2018. VOA

Turkish media are also reporting of divisions within Turkey’s military over the launching of a military operation into Syria in winter and before the full withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen predicts Erdogan will now look to Trump to resolve the current tensions. “We have to wait to see what Mr. Erdogan has to say with Mr. Trump,” said Selcen, “because he (Erdogan) himself managed to persuade Mr. Trump that the United States will be leaving Syria. We have to wait to see what Mr. Erdogan and Mr. Trump have to say in the coming weeks.”

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Turkish media are already blaming Bolton for the latest tensions, accusing him of going “rogue.” Washington is also facing criticism in Turkey for sending conflicting messages on its Syria policy.

Analysts, however, suggest Ankara is banking on shared regional interests and the personal chemistry of Trump and Erdogan to prevent a new crisis. (VOA)

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Extinction Rebellion, Shock Troops of Burgeoning Direct-Action Environmental Movement

They are seen as the shock troops of a burgeoning direct-action environmental movement

FILE - Extinction Rebellion activists march through East London, Britain, July 13, 2019. VOA

They are seen as the shock troops of a burgeoning direct-action environmental movement. Earlier this year, members of Extinction Rebellion brought the center of London and some other major British towns to a standstill by barricading bridges, standing on top of trains, and blocking major thoroughfares and crossroads.

Extinction Rebellion (XR), a campaign of civil disobedience born in Britain and aiming to address a worldwide climate crisis, has been endorsed by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, the teenage poster child of environmentalism. XR has pledged to cause more disruption, arguing that governments are not doing enough to stop the “climate emergency.”

The group, which is spawning similar campaigns in the United States and Australia, says climate activists have no choice but to take matters into their own hands. It demands that governments prevent further biodiversity loss and commit to producing net-zero greenhouse gases by 2025. Otherwise, XR says, there will be a mass extinction of life forms on the planet within the lifetimes of the demonstrators themselves.

The group’s next target is next month’s star-studded London Fashion Week. Activists have promised to shut down the five-day runway event in a bid to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by the fashion industry.

Extinction Rebellion, Troops, Environmental
FILE – Extinction Rebellion climate activists raise a mast on their boat during a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Britain, July 15, 2019. VOA

“We need to change our culture around consumption,” said climate activist Bel Jacobs. “People have no idea how environmentally destructive fashion is.”

Greenhouse gas emissions from making textiles was estimated at 1.2 billion tons of CO2-equivalent in 2015, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a British environmental charity.

‘Cultish nature’

XR’s actions have been applauded by many environmentalists, who say the only way to make governments, people and corporations sit up and take climate action is to shock them into it. But the radical philosophy underpinning the group, which includes wanting to set up citizens’ assemblies that could overrule parliament, is drawing increasing criticism from foes, who compare the group to a millenarian sect.

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“The cultish nature of XR’s activities is a little spooky,” said Austin Williams, director of the Future Cities Project, a group that focuses on urban planning and futurist technological solutions.

Sympathizers acknowledge that XR hasn’t helped itself with some of the remarks made by its leaders. Co-founder Gail Bradbrook said her realization that humanity was on the brink of extinction came from taking huge doses of psychedelic drugs, which “rewired” her brain and gave her the “codes of social change.”

Roger Hallam, another co-founder, has said, “We are going to force the governments to act. And if they don’t, we will bring them down and create a democracy fit for purpose. And yes, some may die in the process.”

Hallam is not a scientist but has a track record as a political activist, and holds a Ph.D. on “digitally enhanced political resistance and empowerment strategies.”

Extinction Rebellion, Troops, Environmental
FILE – Police remove a climate change demonstrator during a march supported by Extinction Rebellion in London, Britain. May 24, 2019. VOA


Several leading XR adherents have announced they’ve decided not to procreate in response to the coming “climate breakdown and civilization collapse,” arguing the world is too horrible a place to bring children into it.

The BirthStrikers, as they are nicknamed, received some endorsement earlier this year from U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said the climate emergency “does lead young people to have a legitimate question — ‘Is it OK still to have children?'”

XR critics have compared the BirthStrikers to the Cathars, a medieval religious sect that encouraged celibacy and discouraged marriage on the grounds that every person born was just another poor soul trapped by the devil in a body.

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XR has also seen defections. Sherrie Yeomans, coordinator of XR blockades in the English city of Bristol, left the group, saying, “I can no longer surround myself with the toxic, manipulative Extinction Rebellion cult.”

Johan Norberg, a Swedish author, historian and XR critic, worries that the group is fueling anxiety while not being practical about the possible solutions to global warming.

“I guess it depends on your definition of cult,” he said. “But I think it is a growing, but very radical, sentiment that I fear plays a part in giving people anxiety about their life choices, and also leads us to thinking about these things in the wrong way,” he told VOA.

Extinction Rebellion, Troops, Environmental
FILE – Protesters from the group Extinction Rebellion walk to Hyde Park in London, April 25, 2019. VOA

On the BirthStrikers he said: “The bizarre thing is that they just think of another human being as a burden, a mouth to feed. But they also come along with a brain to think, and hands to work. I don’t know what scientific insight and which technology will save us from not just global warming but also the many other problems that will affect us — the next pandemic, natural disaster and so on — but I know that the chance that we’ll find it is greater if we have more people alive, who live longer lives than ever, get a longer education than ever, and are more free to make use of the accumulated knowledge and technology of mankind to take on those problems.”

Norberg points to a future of “electric cars and, soon, planes,” and biofuels made from algae and extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere. He worries about the economic consequences if the abrupt zero-growth goals of XR were adopted.

“It would result in a reversal of the amazing economic development that has resulted in the fastest reduction of poverty in history. A lack of growth and international trade would result in human tragedies on a massive scale,” he said.

XR response

XR’s co-founders say Norberg’s formula won’t halt climate change and stop extinction. They defended themselves against critics’ cult charges, arguing recently in an article in a British newspaper, “We’ve made many mistakes, but now is the time for collective action, not recriminations.”

“Extinction Rebellion is humbly following in the tradition of Gandhi and Martin Luther King,” Hallam said. “After covering basic material needs, human beings are not made happier through consuming more stuff.”

Bradbrook told reporters in London, “We oppose a system that generates huge wealth through astonishing innovation but is fatally unable to distribute fairly and provide universal access to its spoils. … We need a ‘revolution’ in consciousness to overturn the system.” (VOA)