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World Monthly Headline News October 2019 Page 2

Analysis by Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
Erbil, Iraq (CNN) - The Syrian Democratic Forces.
It's a term that encapsulates the mess that awaited the US-led counter ISIS campaign when finally it wound down. The SDF -- as it was always clumsily known -- never really existed. At its inception, the Pentagon needed a force on the ground to fight ISIS. They tried for years to find disciplined, Sunni Arab fighters, but failed repeatedly. The Syrian Kurds, however, were both disciplined and pragmatic. But they could not be harnessed as a purely Kurdish force, plowing into Sunni Arab areas held by ISIS. So a fig leaf was created -- a new name for the Syrian Kurdish fighting units, normally called the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG. So the SDF was born, with the exaggerated claim that there were many Arabs in their ranks, and the omission of Turkish Kurds -- the PKK, proscribed by Turkey -- fighting there too. The need for a fudge was a tell that the urgent anti-ISIS campaign would end up with some problems. Fast forward four years, and now the SDF means something entirely different. It's an acronym that spells betrayal. Reflecting how little the Trump administration cared for the details as it rushed to clean up its self-inflicted mess, Vice President Mike Pence mistakenly referred to the SDF as the "Syrian Defence Forces" several times as he announced a ceasefire that further betrayed them. And, earlier, President Donald Trump blurted out the poorly-kept secret that the PKK were in their ranks. America's imperfect pact with the Kurds was always going to fall apart one day. But nobody could have imagined the SDF's 10,000-plus dead sons and daughters would have been betrayed by overwhelming ignorance, fealty to Turkish and Russian interests, and the toxic aversion to details that the Trump administration displayed. The window for Russian dominance in Syria was jammed open by the pitfalls of the US-brokered ceasefire. No deal works on a battlefield if the area covered by it isn't agreed upon. Turkey thought it got all the areas it wanted on the border. The Syrian Kurds thought they had to stop shooting and let Turkey keep the ground it already had -- the latter something it had little say over militarily. It was the perfect scene-setter for Russia to step in. Russian President Vladimir Putin's Sochi deal with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, took in the military reality on the ground. Turkey likely didn't want urban warfare in four to five cities on its border for months to come. To that, Putin added the Syrian regime with Russia at its back -- the keepers of an ugly peace. more... - You have to wonder if the reason Trump is doing what Putin wants is that Putin has something on him or for help in the 2016 election or both.

By GUY DAVIES - Good Morning America
Driver arrested after 39 bodies found in tractor-trailer near London, police say originally appeared on abcnews.go.com. A murder investigation has been launched after 39 dead bodies were discovered in a tractor-trailer about 20 miles east of London, police said Wednesday. Emergency services were called to an industrial park in the town of Grays in Essex, southeast England, at around 1:40 a.m. local time when the vehicle was discovered to have people inside. Thirty-nine people, one of whom was a teenager, were pronounced dead at the scene. A 25-year-old man from Northern Ireland has been arrested on suspicion of murder in connection with the deaths, according to Essex police. A cordon has been placed around the industrial park and an investigation has begun to identify the victims and determine the exact circumstances behind the deaths. The U.K. Home Office, the government department responsible for domestic security and immigration, will be working with Essex police and the National Crime Agency on the investigation. more...

By James Walker
A former CIA official who oversaw the agency's Russia operations has claimed Vladimir Putin benefits the most from Donald Trump's latest foreign policy moves and suggested the Russian president wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks he must be dreaming. Steven L. Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russian operations and CNN national security analyst, told network anchor Anderson Cooper that Putin likely believed Trump's decisions around Syria and Ukraine have been "absolutely fabulous." He also criticised Trump for reportedly consulting with Putin and "two-bit autocrats" like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Ukraine, and described the U.S. president's overall dealings with Ukraine as a "veritable buffet of horribleness." The Washington Post reported that President Trump's view on corruption in Ukraine was influenced by conversations about the country with Orban and Putin, according to unnamed officials. It also revealed that George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, had made similar assertions at a closed-door testimony in front of the House impeachment inquiry. Asked by Cooper whether the decision to seek advice from the two leaders had jeopardized national security, Hall said: "You've got this veritable buffet of horribleness in front of us, and it's difficult for me to say which is the most horrible thing. "That is certainly a terrible, terrible thing when you've got the president of the United States of America reaching out to a foreign leader and asking for that help, regardless of whether there's a quid pro quo." Retired CIA Chief of Russian Operations Steve Hall calls President Trump's recent foreign policy actions a “veritable buffet of horribleness." https://t.co/dOmRQN0Loa pic.twitter.com/hhtBLGWSHF — Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) October 22, 2019. The former CIA official went on to say there had been a "decimation" of Trump administration officials who understood Ukraine and Russia. After criticising Trump for reportedly consulting with Putin and Orban over Ukraine instead of State Department officials, and mockingly describing the leader and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani as "brain surgeons," Hall said: "[Trump] says, yeah I believe what Vladimir Putin tells me about this, and so I'll hold the [Ukraine aid money] money they need so badly. "Why? To thwart Russian invasions and for their annexation of Crimea. How is this good for U.S. security? I do not understand." When Anderson Cooper tried to draw the former CIA official's thoughts on whether Trump was a "puppet" of Putin, Hall said "none other than Vladimir Putin" had benefitted from Trump's harsher view on Ukraine and his decision to pull U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. "Vladimir Putin is now running up and down the Syrian border with his military forces opposite Turkey with Russian flags, going into abandoned U.S. bases there and making a big propaganda deal of it," the retired CIA operative said. more...

Baghdad — U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country, Iraq's military said Tuesday as American forces continued to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey's invasion of the border region. The statement appears to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region. On Tuesday, Esper said he plans to talk to Iraqi leaders to work out details about the U.S. plan to send American troops withdrawing from Syria to Iraq, adding that the U.S. has no plans to have those troops stay in Iraq "interminably." Speaking to reporters at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, Esper said he'll have a discussion with the Iraqi defense minister on Wednesday. He said the aim is to pull U.S. soldiers out and "eventually get them home." The Syrian withdrawal: President Trump ordered the bulk of U.S. troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Turkey considers terrorists. The pullout largely abandons the Syrian Kurdish allies who have fought the Islamic State group alongside U.S. troops for several years. Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf. Angered at feeling betrayed, some residents in areas populated predominantly by Kurds in both Syria and Iraq have pelted the withdrawing troops. On Monday, a U.S. convoy that was driving down an avenue in the Kurdish-dominated city of Qamishly was pelted with potatoes. "Like rats, America is running away," one man shouted in Arabic at the vehicles. Near the Iraqi city of Irbil, a small group of young men threw stones at a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles, shouting obscenities as it drove down a main highway, according to a video circulating online. more...

By Andrew MacAskill
LONDON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared confused at a London court hearing on Monday, struggling to recall his name and age in his first public appearance in months as he sought to fight extradition to the United States. Assange, 48, who spent seven years holed up in Ecuador’s embassy before he was dragged out in April, faces 18 counts in the United States including conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law. He could spend decades in prison if convicted. On Monday he appeared clean-shaven, without the long beard he had worn at his last public appearance in May, when he was sentenced to 50 weeks in jail for skipping bail.  He appeared in good health, with his white hair combed back and wearing a navy suit over a light blue sweater and white shirt. But Assange mumbled and stuttered for several seconds as he gave his name and date of birth at the start of a preliminary hearing in the case. When the judge asked him at the end of the hearing if he knew what was happening, he replied “not exactly”, complained about the conditions in jail, and said he was unable to “think properly”. “I don’t understand how this is equitable,” Assange said. “I can’t research anything, I can’t access any of my writing. It’s very difficult where I am.” Assange is being held in a British jail pending the U.S. extradition, having served his sentence for skipping bail. He fled to Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 to avoid being sent to Sweden to face sex crimes accusations. He says the U.S. charges against him are a political attempt to silence journalists and publishers, and the Swedish allegations were part of a plot to catch him. Sweden is reviewing the sex crimes cases. more...

CNN - Lawmakers reject Boris Johnson's planned timetable for the rest of the week.
The government hoped to ram its Brexit bill through all its stages in the House of Commons by Thursday but MPs said no. Johnson said earlier if the vote failed, he would scrap his Brexit deal and push for a snap election. MPs voted against the timetable by 322 votes to 308. more...

The deal allows Turkey to maintain control of areas it pushed into launching its offensive into Syria earlier this month.
By The Associated Press
ANKARA, Turkey — Kurdish fighters completed their pullout from a zone along the Syrian border as required under a U.S.-brokered cease-fire deal hours before it was set to expire Tuesday, U.S. and Kurdish official said, as the leaders of Turkey and Russia sought to work out the fate of the border region. Turkey had threatened to relaunch its offensive if the withdrawal was not carried out. A senior Kurdish official, Redur Khalil, said that even after the Kurdish pullout, Turkish troops and their allies were continuing military operations in northeastern Syria outside the withdrawal zone. Ankara has agreed to the specified zone but Turkish officials said they still want to clear Kurdish fighters from their entire shared border. The Kurdish-led forces notified the White House of the completed withdrawal in a letter, a senior Trump administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the contents of the letter have not yet been publicly disclosed. The United States, meanwhile, ran into a new hitch in getting its troops out of Syria, with neighboring Iraq's military saying Tuesday that the American forces did not have permission to stay on its territory. The Iraqi announcement seemed to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who a day earlier said the forces leaving Syria would deploy in Iraq to fight the Islamic State group. The conflicting signals underscored how the United States has stumbled from one problem to another after President Donald Trump abruptly ordered their withdrawal. Amid fears the Americans' departure will revive IS, Esper is considering keeping some troops in Syria to protect oil fields held by Kurdish-led fighters, backing away from the full withdrawal first touted by Trump. After the Iraqi statement, Esper said he would speak to the Iraqi defense minister on Wednesday and underlined that the U.S. has no plans to keep the troops in Iraq "interminably" and intends to "eventually get them home." The U.S. pullout opened the door for Turkey to launch its offensive against Kurdish fighters on Oct. 9. After a storm of criticism, Washington moved to broker a five-day cease-fire that was set to expire Tuesday night. more...

By Sabra AyresMoscow Correspondent
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s team realized it had a potential problem in U.S. relations on May 10, when Rudolph W. Giuliani told Fox News that a Ukrainian advisor to the newly elected leader was a Trump enemy. “I’m convinced that [Zelensky] is surrounded by people who are enemies of the president, and one person in particular, who is clearly corrupt and involved in this scheme,” Giuliani said. The former New York mayor, now serving as Trump’s private attorney, was talking about Sergei Leshchenko, a young member of parliament and former investigative journalist who was in line for a top position in the Ukrainian president’s new administration. The next day, Leshchenko was dismissed from consideration for Zelensky’s team. Zelensky’s advisors understood that Giuliani was a mouthpiece for President Trump, and the last thing the new Ukrainian president wanted was a sour start with the White House. “For the new president, it was impossible to have such a negative narrative with an American president at the very beginning,” Leshchenko said. “So, it of course had a bad impact on my political prospects with Zelensky’s team.” From that moment, Leshchenko became the focal point in Giuliani’s campaign to push conspiracy theories involving Ukraine. But what was at the heart of Giuliani’s narrative was a mysterious accounting book that became known as “the black ledger.” In 2016, Leshchenko was part of a group of young politicians pushing for democratic reforms in Ukraine. In his former life as a journalist, he had developed a reputation for hard-hitting reporting that exposed high-profile corruption cases. more...

By Nima Elbagir, Mohamed Abo El Gheit, Florence Davey-Attlee, and Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
(CNN) - American-made weaponry has fallen into the hands of rival militia groups in Yemen, some of whom have turned their arms against each other in a bitter and worsening conflict, a new CNN investigation has found. Fresh evidence shows that military hardware that was supplied to US allies has been distributed in contravention of arms deals to militia groups, including UAE-backed separatists. They are now using it to fight the Saudi-supported forces of the internationally recognized government, who are also armed with US weapons. These new findings follow an exclusive investigation by CNN in February which traced US-made equipment that was sold to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The weapons were being passed to non-state fighters on the ground in Yemen, including al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, the report found, in violation of arms sales law. Following CNN's initial reporting, the Pentagon said it had launched its own investigation into the unauthorized transfer of US weapons in Yemen. But more than half a year on and the situation on the ground only seems to have got worse. Saudi Arabia has led a coalition, in close partnership with the UAE and including various militia groups, to fight Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since 2015. But, in a clear break with its Saudi partners, the UAE said in July that it was reducing its forces in the country, and fighting escalated between separatists and government forces on the ground in August. The UAE has since thrown its support behind the separatist movement. That month, separatists said they'd taken control of the strategic port city of Aden after days of fighting with government forces. A couple of weeks later, the Yemeni government accused the UAE of carrying out a series of airstrikes that killed dozens of its troops -- but the UAE said it was targeting terrorist militias. Saudi-backed forces have since regained control of Aden and talks are under way to end the power struggle over the city, news agencies report.

For Russia, Trump’s presidency is a gift that keeps on giving. The Kremlin’s propagandists see no acceptable alternative among any viable presidential candidates in 2020.
By Julia Davis
President Trump has boasted he’s “getting a lot of praise” for his abrupt decision to withdraw U.S. troops out of northern Syria, abandoning the Kurds—America’s longstanding allies—to Turkey’s incursion. On the home front, the controversial move has been met with criticism on both sides of the political aisle, but the reaction in Moscow was far from mixed. As Trump uncorked chaos in the Middle East, champagne tops were likely popping at the Kremlin. “Putin won the lottery! Russia’s unexpected triumph in the Middle East,” raved Mikhail Rostovsky in his article for the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “Those who were convinced of Trump’s uselessness for Russia ought to think again...What Washington got out of this strange move is completely unclear. To the contrary, what Moscow gained from this is self-evident...Trump’s mistake in Syria is the unexpected ‘lottery win’ that further strengthened Moscow’s position in the Middle East and undermined America’s prestige as a rational political player and a reliable partner.” Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the leading Russian business daily Kommersant, was amazed by the ongoing stream of inexplicable actions by the American president that benefit the Kremlin. “All of this benefits the Russian Federation,” Yusin marveled. “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent? He is laboring so hard to strengthen the international image of Russia in general—and Putin in particular...In this situation, Americans—to their chagrin and our enjoyment—are the only losers in this situation.” “This is such a pleasure,” grinned Olga Skabeeva, the host of Russia’s state television program 60 Minutes. “Russian soldiers have taken an American base under our complete control, without a fight!” Skabeeva’s co-host Evgeny Popov added: “Suddenly, we have defeated everyone.” Incredulously, Skabeeva pointed out: “This is an American base—and they just ran away! Trump ran away!” “It’s been a long time since America has been humiliated this way,” gloated political analyst Mikhail Sinelnikov-Orishak, “They ran away in shame! I can’t recall such a scenario since Vietnam.” He added: “For us, this is of great interest, because this is a key region where energy prices are being determined. That is a shining cherry on top.” Political scientist Andrey Nikulin concurred: “This is sad for America. A smaller-scale version of what happened in Vietnam.” Appearing on the nightly television show The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, political analyst Evgeny Satanovsky recounted many ways in which Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria and abandon the Kurds has hurt the image and standing of the United States: “America betrayed everyone...Trump also strengthened the anti-American mood in Turkey, when he promised to destroy the Turkish economy.” Satanovsky opined that now any economic problems or currency fluctuations in Turkey can be blamed directly on the United States, prompting textile, tobacco, steel and other industries to turn away from America. “Anti-Americanism in Turkey is off the charts,” Satanovsky pointed out, “American politics are tangled in their own shoelaces... America is successfully self-eliminating from the region.” “You know, I’ve been watching Trump’s behavior lately and get seditious thoughts: maybe he really is a Russian agent?” — Maksim Yusin, the editor of international politics at the Russian business daily Kommersant, The timing also struck the Russians as incredibly fortuitous and inexplicable. “They lost their only chance to remove [Syrian President] Bashar Assad,” exclaimed Russian lawmaker Oleg Morozov, appearing on 60 Minutes, “They were only half a step away!” more...

By Alaa Elassar, CNN
(CNN) - Egyptian authorities on Saturday revealed the contents of 30 ancient wooden coffins discovered in Luxor and yes, they include mummies.
Mostafa Waziri, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told reporters the discovery was the country's largest in more than a century.
It is the first cache of coffins to be discovered by an Egyptian mission, after years of foreign-led archeological digs. "The last one was in 1891, [led by] foreigners. 1881, [also] foreigners. But ... 2019 is an Egyptian discovery," Waziri said. "This is an indescribable feeling, I swear to God." The discovery was unveiled in front of Hatshepsut Temple at Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Khaled El-Enany described the 3,000-year-old coffins, which were buried in Al-Asasif Cemetery, as "exceptionally well-preserved, exceptionally well-colored." They contained the mummified remains of men and women, as well as two children, who are believed to be from the middle class, Waziri said. While the mummies were found completely wrapped in cloth, their genders could be identified by the shape of the hands on the coffin. Coffins which were carved with the hands open meant they were female, while if the hands were balled into fists, they held males, according to Waziri.

U.S. forces have been pulling out of northern Syria amid growing chaos after Turkey invaded the region earlier this month.
By Yuliya Talmazan
All of the nearly 1,000 U.S. troops withdrawing from northern Syria will head to western Iraq to continue the campaign against Islamic State militants, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Saturday. U.S. forces have been pulling out of northern Syria amid growing chaos after Turkey invaded the region earlier this month. President Donald Trump said he would withdraw U.S. troops who'd been protecting Kurdish areas out of the way of the Turkish advance, prompting criticism both domestically and abroad. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leading a congressional delegation to the region this weekend. Kurds withdraw as U.S. troops head to Iraq Esper told reporters en route to the Middle East Saturday that the U.S. withdrawal will take weeks not days. He said the mission for those troops would be to “help defend Iraq” and carry out a counter-ISIS mission. It is unclear whether the U.S. troops moving to Iraq will use it as a base to launch ground raids into Syria. The additional U.S. troops would add to the more than 5,000 American troops already based in the country.

By Jenny Gathright, Daniel Estrin, Lama Al-Arian
As the five-day cease-fire along Turkey's border with Syria continues to falter, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) tells NPR he thinks the deal is "really terrible." Under the deal, announced Thursday by Vice President Pence, Turkey agreed to halt its military offensive into the Syrian border region and the U.S. agreed to help usher the Kurdish-led forces out. Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, top commander of the SDF, said his troops are committed to a temporary pause in fighting — but he is unwilling to fully evacuate his forces from the highly contested 20-mile-wide zone along hundreds of miles of the Syrian border. Abdi says the SDF only agreed to withdraw its forces from "a few specific points," not the entire region under discussion. In an interview with NPR's Daniel Estrin and Lama Al-Arian, the commander said, "We've asked for a corridor in order for us to be able to withdraw our forces ... but [Turkish forces] haven't yet opened one." Meanwhile, Turkish-backed forces remain in the area. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that if the Kurdish-led forces do not retreat by Tuesday, Turkey will resume its offensive. On Saturday, The Associated Press reported that the two sides were still trading fire around Ras al-Ayn, a strategic border town. Intense fighting began after the U.S. rapidly withdrew troops from northeastern Syria earlier this month. U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told CBS last week that the U.S. would withdraw 1,000 troops in northern Syria. Two U.S. officials close to the conflict told NPR all U.S. forces involved in fighting ISIS in the area would leave.

VLADIMIR PUTIN is set to take control of the biggest oil reserve in the world as Venezuela hands over control of its state owned company to Moscow after Trump’s anti-government sanctions fall flat.
By Charlie Bradley
The Venezuelan government is readying to hand over control of state oil company PDVSA to Russia’s Rosneft, a local newspaper has reported, citing sources from the industry. El Nacional reports the radical move is being discussed as a way of erasing Caracas’ debt to Moscow, with the outstanding amount owed to Russian company Rosneft a sizeable £853million. Two years ago, Caracas and Moscow sealed a deal for the restructuring of another £2.4billion debt to Russia over 10 years with minimum payments over the first six years. Since 2006, Russian loans to Venezuela have reached more than £13billion in total. The deal has been welcomed in Russia, and Rosneft is said to have sent technical teams to Venezuela to prepare to step-up its involvement with national oil giant PDVSA. Rosneft said the proposals were “rumours” and refused to comment further. The deal has provoked confusion from some experts, as Russia and Venezuela’s motive appears unclear. Alexander Korolkov, an expert at the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) told The Moscow Times: “Frankly speaking, it seems strange. “For me, there are more questions than answers around these rumours. Why do they want to give control to Rosneft? They owe much more to China than to Russia. “And I’m not sure that Rosneft really needs this kind of a ‘gift’. ‘Control’ here may mean not direct control over the business but a new level of coordination on the oil market. “I suppose there might be an advisory team from Rosneft giving support to the locals in terms of reforms.” A change of ownership over PDVSA would need to be approved by the National Assembly, which is controlled by the opposition.

RUSSIA’s Prime Minister has said Moscow is prepared to respond what he regards as a push to build bases near its borders.
By Gursimran Hans
Dmitry Medvedev made the remarks in an interview with Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti. Mr Medvedev was President of the Russian Federation between 2008 and 2012, swapping roles with Vladimir Putin after the latter was barred due to term limits. He explained: “No one denies that Russia has own interests related to ensuring its security. “We are a large country, we are a nuclear state, and the desire to place NATO bases in our immediate vicinity obviously cannot fill us with positive emotions. “We have always responded and will continue to respond to this, both politically and in a military sense.” He warned NATO to think twice before adding certain nations into the group stating: “All attempts to drag countries with internal conflicts into NATO are extremely dangerous. “You mentioned Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republika Srpska, but we can also name other countries. more...

Turkish president says his forces would go back on attack in four days unless Kurdish forces withdraw from 'safe zone'. The ceasefire in northeast Syria got off to a rocky start on Friday, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would resume a full-scale operation against Kurdish forces if they do not withdraw from a border "safe zone". Speaking to reporters in Istanbul, Erdogan said the Kurdish forces must withdraw "without exception" from a swathe of land 30km (18.6 miles) deep inside Syria, running 440km (273.4 miles) along Turkey's eastern border with Syria.  "If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved," Erdogan said. "If it fails, the operation ... will start the minute 120 hours are over." Ankara considers the Kurdish forces to be "terrorists" linked to Kurdish rebels inside Turkey and wants the fighters pushed back from its border. It says the "safe zone" it wants to create inside Syria would also make room to settle up to two million Syrian war refugees - out of the 3.6 million it is currently hosting. Donald Trump, president of the United States, meanwhile, said Erdogan told him there had been "minor sniper and mortar fire" in the region "that was quickly eliminated". The Turkish leader assured him in a call that "he very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work", Trump said on Twitter, adding that the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also want the deal to work. There was no sign of any pullout by the Kurdish-led forces, however. In a statement, the SDF said the deal only covers a 12km stretch (7.5 miles) - a much smaller section of the border than that Erdogan announced - and did not commit to pulling out from anywhere. Columns of smoke were seen over the border town on Friday morning, and the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Rojava Information Center said fighting continued into the afternoon as Turkish-backed Syrian fighters clashed with Kurdish forces in villages on the town's outskirts. Fighting quieted around 4pm local time (13:00 GMT), and the calm continued into nightfall, Kurdish fighters said. Earlier in the day, Mustefa Bali, a spokesman for the SDF, accused Turkey of violating the ceasefire deal reached during a visit to Ankara by US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday.  "Despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital" in the border town of Ras al-Ain in northeast Syria, he said. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs described the situation in northeast Syria as "reportedly calm in most areas, with the exception of Ras al-Ain, where shelling and gunfire continued to be reported" earlier on Friday.

Guardian News - The Liberal Democrat leader responded to Boris Johnson’s statement on his Brexit deal saying it would damage the British economy ‘on a scale greater than the financial crash’. She also accused the prime minister of rejecting a people’s vote out of fear that the public would ‘reject this bad deal and choose to remain in the EU'. Boris responded by saying that the deal would not remove workers’ rights and he accused Swinson of not allowing the British public a say on the deal by preventing a general election

By Jonathan Browning
U.S. prosecutors aren’t done with Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire who figured prominently in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case against Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. In what could be an offshoot of Mueller’s work, federal authorities are seeking records seized from a U.K. company associated with Deripaska, according to documents filed in a London court this week. As part of the previously undisclosed inquiry, U.S. authorities are seeking evidence of “money laundering, tax offenses and fraud offenses” from 18 individuals and companies including Terra Services Ltd., a real estate firm that until last year was controlled by Deripaska, the filings say. The inquiry is “live and ongoing,” according to a U.K. government filing Thursday. Terra, in another filing, said the search request appears to have been made “in connection with the special counsel investigation being conducted in the U.S.” into Russian election interference. The investigation came to light because Terra is challenging a search warrant that led to the December 2018 seizure of at least 25,000 electronic documents from a British storage unit it owned. Terra asked a London judge to prevent the documents from being handed over to the Americans. Redacted Report: The presiding U.K. judge who granted the search warrant in December 2018 said that any seized materials could be helpful “in an ongoing U.S. investigation into a number of criminal offenses committed by two U.S. subjects, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates,” according to court documents. But by that time Manafort had been convicted and was awaiting sentencing. Gates had already pleaded guilty and was cooperating with prosecutors. Mueller’s team ended its work earlier this year, referring several matters to other U.S. prosecutors. Many of those haven’t been made public. Parts of Mueller’s report dealing with Manafort and Gates are redacted to avoid interfering with unspecified ongoing investigations. According to Mueller’s report, one-time Trump campaign chairman Manafort had a business dispute with Deripaska that he was looking to resolve, and he offered Deripaska briefings and internal polling data. Manafort was convicted of multiple crimes and is serving a sentence of more than seven years; Deripaska wasn’t accused of wrongdoing. The U.S. request named 18 entities including Terra Services and two U.K.-based lawyers. The documents available in the London case don’t include the U.S. request for a search, or the corresponding U.K. search warrant, but quote from parts of the warrant. The filings don’t say which U.S. authorities are currently handling the matter.

By Steven Erlanger
BRUSSELS — Breaking its own deadlines, reopening negotiations on a Brexit agreement with Britain it had said was sacrosanct and then approving a new version before it could be fully digested by its member states, the European Union showed considerable strategic flexibility on Thursday. The Europeans got the better of the accord, most analysts agree, and remain eager to avoid a no-deal Brexit that would damage both parties. But what is evident now is that the European Union wants Britain to leave already, so it can move on to more pressing issues, from migration and enlargement to the contentious post-Brexit seven-year budget. Before, there was the often-expressed hope, regularly articulated by European Council President Donald Tusk, whose term expires next month, that Britain might somehow remain in the European Union despite the 2016 referendum. But now the other 27 countries just seem to want the British gone. “The Europeans have given up on Tusk’s notion of, ‘oh, let them stay,’” said Mujtaba Rahman, a former European Commission economist now at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy. “There is no real strategy around the hope that a Labour government will emerge and have a second referendum.” The bloc, he said, is focused on preserving its own interests: “protecting peace in Ulster, protecting the single market and facilitating a smooth exit for Britain.” Given Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s eagerness to reach a deal before Oct. 31, when he promised that Britain would leave the European Union one way or another, European negotiators moved remarkably quickly to adjust their offer, seeking to avoid being blamed for failure. They preserved their own key principles, including the need to show solidarity with Ireland and prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. “The E.U. showed a lot of patience,” said Agata Gostynska-Jakubowska, a Brussels-based analyst with the Center for European Reform. “It’s very rare that hours before the European Council starts, that individual states don’t even have a legal text. The deadline set for midnight Tuesday was supposed to be absolute, but the parties wanted to deliver on this. The objective is to move on.” Brussels was happy to drop the idea of the so-called Irish backstop, the guarantee that there would be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland — a sticking point for Mr. Johnson and other Brexit supporters. But in the end, with Mr. Johnson’s concession that Northern Ireland would remain in the bloc’s customs union while legally remaining part of Britain, the distinction was largely semantic. “The E.U. side knows perfectly well that this is a matter of window dressing, largely, for Boris Johnson and saw no great difficulty, because it did not require the E.U. to move any of its red lines,” said Michael Leigh, a former senior European Commission official. “This is an accommodation within U.K. factions; it doesn’t affect any real E.U. interests.” Europe’s main goal, he added, was to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Though that option would damage Britain more, it would also hurt the European economy, which is already slowing.

By Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III, Mike Hayes and Meg Wagner, CNN
Vice President Mike Pence's has boarded Air Force Two in Ankara, Turkey, following five hours of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. What we know: Pence said Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in Syria. But Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the agreement between the US and Turkey is not a ceasefire. "We will pause, this is not a ceasefire. A ceasefire can only be between two legitimate entities," he said.

By Reality Check team BBC News
A revised Brexit deal has been agreed by the UK and EU. What is in it? All sides want to avoid the return of a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit - with checks and infrastructure which could be targeted by paramilitary groups. Coming up with solutions to this - acceptable to all sides - has been very challenging. The new protocol replaces the controversial Irish backstop plan in Theresa May's deal. Much of the rest of that deal will remain. Here are some of the key new parts: Customs: The whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union. This means the UK will be able to strike trade deals with other countries in the future. There will be a legal customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (which stays in the EU). But in practice the customs border will be between Great Britain and the island of Ireland, with goods being checked at "points of entry" in Northern Ireland. Duty (tax) won't automatically have to be paid on goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. But where something is "at risk" of then being transported into the Republic of Ireland (which is part of the EU customs union), duty will be paid. A joint committee made up of UK and EU representatives will decide at a later date what goods are considered "at risk". It might be that duty is paid on goods that do not end up being sent on from Northern Ireland into the EU. The UK would be responsible for whether to refund the duty in these circumstances. Ordinary people won't have their baggage checked and duty won't apply to individuals sending goods to other people. There will also be limits agreed by the joint committee on the amount of help the government can give to Northern Irish farmers. The figure will be based on the amount they currently receive from the EU's Common Agricultural Policy.

This is one of the most astonishing letters in diplomatic history.
By Alex Ward
President Donald Trump sent a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week urging him to make a deal with the Kurds, saying: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” The letter is dated October 9, which means it was written just three days after Trump ordered the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria. The goal of the letter, it seems, was to convince Erdoğan not to send his forces into Syria to attack the Kurds, who had been the American military’s strongest partner in the fight against ISIS. “You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people,” Trump writes, before threatening to destroy Turkey’s economy if Erdoğan doesn’t heed his demands. Trump then calls on the Turkish president to make a deal with Kurdish leaders so they don’t fight each other. “History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” the letter reads. “It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.” But, as we now know, Turkey did launch its offensive against the Kurds — on October 9. It’s unclear when Erdoğan received the letter.

By Rachel Layne
In announcing a preliminary trade agreement with China last week, President Donald Trump touted the accord as "the greatest and biggest deal ever made for our Great Patriot Farmers in the history of our Country." Yet questions remain about how great and big the pact ultimately will prove to be for U.S. farmers. The deal calls for China to buy between $40 billion and $50 billion a year in American farm products, according to U.S. trade officials. Experts are skeptical such a goal is achievable. The reason: Chinese imports of U.S. soybeans, pork and other agricultural commodities peaked in 2013 at $29 billion, according to U.S. government data. The trade war pushed that figure down to $9 billion last year. As a result, simply restoring Chinese purchase of U.S. farm products to 2013 levels would be a "big achievement," Arthur Kroeber, an analyst with investor advisory firm Gavekal Research, said in a note to clients this week. Another potential wrinkle is that China's commitment to buying more U.S. farm goods is contingent on their needs and on market prices, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. China may be pushing for the U.S. to drop plans for new 15% tariffs on $156 billion in consumer goods due to take effect December 15, using the farm purchases as leverage, the Journal noted. "Shocking! You mean China's not going to buy $40-50 billion in ag products until our tariffs are lifted? Couldn't have seen that one coming," Farmers for Free Trade, a lobbying group that opposes the tariffs, said in a sarcastic tweet Wednesday.

'Don't be a fool!' the letter reads. The president concluded by saying, 'I will call you later.'
By Dareh Gregorian and Peter Alexander
President Donald Trump wrote Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan an extraordinary letter warning him not to be "a tough guy" or "a fool" as his forces launched their attack on northern Syria, a White House official confirmed to NBC News. "Dear Mr. President," the Oct. 9 letter began, "Let's work out a good deal! You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will." Trump then referred to economic sanctions his administration used on the country to push for the release of an American pastor who'd been locked up in Turkey, calling it "a little sample" of what could be in store. "I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don't let the world down. You can make a great deal," Trump wrote, asserting that the commander of the Kurdish forces is "willing to negotiate with you." "History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way," Trump wrote to Erdogan. "It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen. Don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!" "I will call you later," the letter concludes. It's signed, "Sincerely, Donald Trump." The letter was first reported by Fox Business Network, and the White House official confirmed its contents. Trump appears to be proud of the missive — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the president handed out copies of it during a heated meeting with Congressional leaders on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera English - China wants to hold more talks to hammer out the details of “phase one” of a trade deal touted by Donald Trump. The US has delayed tariff increases that were scheduled to come into effect on Tuesday. But after months of losses and uncertainty, businesses in China are still under pressure to branch out to new markets. Al Jazeera's Rob Matheson reports from Shanghai.

BBC News - A judge, who says she was bullied and had a breakdown after speaking out about government cuts, has won a landmark appeal at the Supreme Court.The court ruled Warrington District Judge Claire Gilham could be classified as a "worker" and was therefore entitled to whistleblowing protection.This means she can now have her case heard at an employment tribunal.Five Supreme Court justices ruled unanimously in her favour, in contrary to a Court of Appeal ruling from 2017. Speaking after the ruling, Judge Gilham said: "Winning is a great relief after these seven long years. "Ethically I always knew that my point was right: that judges should have human rights protections. "You can't have justice without independent and unafraid judges, and if judges can't speak out to protect the court system, then justice suffers and the people caught up in the system suffer too." She had raised several matters with her senior court staff. They included a lack of secure court rooms, a severely increased workload and administrative failures following major cuts to the Ministry of Justice budget from 2010. The judge, who sat at Warrington County Court in Cheshire, claimed that as a result of her complaints, she was seriously bullied, ignored and undermined. She was informed that her workload and concerns were simply a "personal working style choice" and inadequate steps were taken to support her return to work, she said. She also said her health severely deteriorated leading to mental health problems and she was signed off work due to stress from the end of January 2013 but has recently returned.

By Mitch Prothero
In 24 hours, the estimated 1,000 elite US troops based in northeastern Syria to fight the Islamic State have found themselves overrun by Syrian, Turkish, and Russian military units. It follows an abrupt series of confusing orders to conduct an immediate withdrawal, taken in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the region and allow Turkey to invade. US troops had occupied a series of command and observation posts along the Syria-Turkey border as part of a mission to lead the Syrian Democratic Forces, a mostly Kurdish militia, against the Islamic State. The region was thrown into chaos in the past week, however, by a Turkish incursion into the area designed to confront the armed Kurdish groups there.  The hasty withdrawal was announced Saturday by President Donald Trump, who said all US troops in Syria would withdraw as soon as possible, barring a single base in the desert along the Syria-Jordan border. US units were soon faced with heavy artillery strikes by Turkey that on Sunday appeared to target US positions. They also had to deal with fast-shifting control of cities and major motorways that were their pathway out of the country. As of Tuesday at least one small unit of US forces, estimated to consist of 50 to 100 soldiers, was trapped by advances from two sides: by the Turkish forces along the border and Russian-backed Syrian government forces, who began arriving into the formerly Kurdish controlled cities of Raqqa, Manbij, Kobani, Qamishli, and Ayn Issa. "Two [observation posts] were located in the area around Kobani and these units were cut off from the rest of Rojava by the Turkish advance on one side and the arrival of regime militias from the west into Manbij," said a Western military official who until recently had worked closely with the SDF.

By Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States carried out a secret cyber operation against Iran in the wake of the Sept. 14 attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, which Washington and Riyadh blame on Tehran, two U.S. officials have told Reuters. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the operation took place in late September and took aim at Tehran’s ability to spread “propaganda.” One of the officials said the strike affected physical hardware, but did not provide further details. The attack highlights how President Donald Trump’s administration has been trying to counter what it sees as Iranian aggression without spiraling into a broader conflict. Asked about Reuters reporting on Wednesday, Iran’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said: “They must have dreamt it,” Fars news agency reported. The U.S. strike appears more limited than other such operations against Iran this year after the downing of an American drone in June and an alleged attack by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on oil tankers in the Gulf in May. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Britain, France and Germany have publicly blamed the Sept. 14 attack on Iran, which denied involvement in the strike. The Iran-aligned Houthi militant group in Yemen claimed responsibility. Publicly, the Pentagon has responded by sending thousands of additional troops and equipment to bolster Saudi defenses - the latest U.S. deployment to the region this year.

By Ben Church, CNN
(CNN) - The president of Bulgaria's football association Borislav Mihaylov has handed in his resignation after England players were subjected to racist abuse during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier. The game was twice temporarily halted in the first half after England debutant Tyrone Mings alerted officials to the abuse being directed at both himself and his teammates from various parts of the Levski Stadium in Sofia. As well as the monkey chanting, some Bulgarian fans made Nazi salutes during the game. "His decision is a consequence of the tensions caused in recent days; an environment, which is damaging to Bulgarian football and to the Bulgarian football association," read a statement on Bulgarian Football Union's website. Mihaylov had faced pressure to resign from Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov who later called the fans making Nazi salutes "retards" whilst arguing England had "overdramatized" the incident. "The other fans were amazing! We do not comment behavior of England`s football hooligans in Sofia," he said. "We do not say they are the pride of their nation. So they need to be more humble in their statements about Bulgaria. The Bulgaria is the most tolerant nation."

MINSK (Reuters) - Belarus briefly detained a Russian national accused by Washington of taking part in Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Belarus’s interior ministry said on Tuesday. Anna Bogachyova was detained at a hotel in the capital Minsk and later released, it said in a statement. Her arrest had been requested by the United States, Russian state news agency RIA said, citing an unnamed source familiar with the situation. Belarus is a close ally of Russia. Following her release, the Belarusian prosecutor general’s office said it was considering removing her name from the country’s list of internationally wanted people. The United States has said Bogachyova worked briefly for Internet Research Agency (IRA) in 2014, which has been referred to as a Russian “troll factory”. Her name appeared in a report by former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election campaign.

By Jessie Yeung, CNN
(CNN) - We may have already discovered the essence of life on Mars 40 years ago, according to a former NASA scientist. Gilbert V. Levin, who was principal investigator on a NASA experiment that sent Viking landers to Mars in 1976, published an article in the Scientific American journal last Thursday, arguing the experiment's positive results were proof of life on the red planet. The experiment, called Labeled Release (LR), was designed to test Martian soil for organic matter. "It seemed we had answered that ultimate question," Levin wrote in the article. In the experiment, the Viking probes placed nutrients in Mars soil samples -- if life were present, it would consume the food and leave gaseous traces of its metabolism, which radioactive monitors would then detect. To make sure it was a biological reaction, the test was repeated after cooking the soil, which would prove lethal to known life. If there was a measurable reaction in the first and not the second sample, that would suggest biological forces at work -- and that's exactly what happened, according to Levin. However, other experiments failed to find any organic material and NASA couldn't duplicate the results in their laboratory -- so they dismissed the positive result as false positives, some unknown chemical reaction rather than proof of extraterrestrial life. "NASA concluded that the LR had found a substance mimicking life, but not life," said Levin in his article. "Inexplicably, over the 43 years since Viking, none of NASA's subsequent Mars landers has carried a life detection instrument to follow up on these exciting results." But now, decades later, there are more and more promising signs. NASA's Curiosity rover found organic matter on Mars in 2018, and just last week it found sediments that suggest there were once ancient salty lakes on the surface of Mars. "What is the evidence against the possibility of life on Mars?" Levin wrote. "The astonishing fact is that there is none." Levin, a maverick researcher who has often run afoul of the NASA bureaucracy, has insisted for decades that "it is more likely than not that we detected life." Now, he and LR co-experimenter Patricia Ann Straat are calling for further investigation. "NASA has already announced that its 2020 Mars lander will not contain a life-detection test," Levin wrote in the Scientific American article. "In keeping with well-established scientific protocol, I believe an effort should be made to put life detection experiments on the next Mars mission possible."

By Eddie Spence
The ex-wife of an exiled oligarch is at the center of his court battle with the Russian state, with each side accusing her of working for the other. Galina Arkhipova is the former spouse of Sergei Pugachev, once an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pugachev is accused of siphoning more than $1 billion from a bailout of International Industrial Bank, which he co-founded. The ex-senator denies the allegations, which he calls part of a politically motivated campaign to confiscate his wealth. The Deposit Insurance Agency, a Russian agency in charge of liquidating the bank, was in a London court this month to try to force Arkhipova to turn over paperwork in the case. The DIA accuses the divorcees of working together to protect Pugachev’s assets, an allegation he said was “an exceptional lie” in an email sent to Bloomberg. In its filing to the London High Court, the DIA accuses Pugachev of asking her to make claims to frustrate confiscation orders. Pugachev, who now lives in France, makes his own allegation: that Arkhipova is acting in “collusion” with the DIA to “distract” his attention from his own lawsuit in Russia over its seizure of his assets. A legal representative for Pugachev repeated the allegation in email to Bloomberg. Neither Pugachev nor his wife, Galina Arkhipova, were in the London court or had attorneys there. The DIA and its attorneys at Hogan Lovells declined to comment on the case. Representatives for Arkhipova didn’t respond to emails requesting comment. The London case -- set for trial in early 2020 -- revolves around a mansion in London’s upscale Chelsea neighborhood that he bought for 7.9 million pounds ($10 million) in 2011. Five years ago, a London court froze his assets, beginning a global battle by the Russian state to claim what it says it’s owed. Arkhipova filed for divorce that same year, and started claiming her interests in some of their possessions.

By Simon Tisdall
The belligerent president has forgotten that his country is a democracy, not a dictatorship. It is time for him to go. If Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s belligerent president, were a true patriot with his country’s security and wellbeing at heart, he would resign immediately. He has made an appalling hash of things. His Syrian misadventure, while unusually calamitous, is but the latest in a long line of foreign blunders. Erdoğan abuses his position. He harms his country. He is still in office not because he is popular but because of the fear he instils and the power he crudely wields. It’s time for him to go. Having said that, doing the decent thing is not Erdoğan’s strong suit. His 16 years in power – as prime minister and then president – have been marked, at home, by growing authoritarianism and repression. The economy is an indebted mess. Corruption and nepotism thrive. After a 2016 military-led coup failed, Erdoğan exploited it to purge political opponents, the judiciary, civil society and the media. Tens of thousands of supposed plotters were jailed. Erdoğan’s creation of an executive presidency, concentrating power in his hands, was narrowly agreed in a 2017 referendum, and is proving a disaster for Turkish democracy. Effective checks and balances circumscribing his actions are lacking. Absent, too, are experienced figures, such as former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and ex-deputy prime minister Ali Babacan, who might have reined him in. Alienated by his domineering behaviour, they have wisely jumped ship. Turkey’s ill-considered Syrian invasion is a byproduct of Erdoğan’s dictatorial behaviour. Like Donald Trump, he trusted his gut, not seasoned advisers. Now Syrians, mostly Kurds, are paying the price. All western leaders share some blame here. They have long known Erdoğan for what he is – yet for reasons of realpolitik, they looked the other way.

The Telegraph
Bashar al-Assad’s forces began entering northeast Syria in large numbers for the first time in years on Monday after the West’s Kurdish allies agreed to a Russian-brokered deal to try to hold off a Turkish onslaught. Forces loyal to the Syrian regime have started arriving in the Kurdish-held province of Hasakah and Assad’s fighters are expected to start moving into key cities along the Syrian-Turkish border over the next 48 hours. The regime’s black-and-red flag was raised over government buildings in Hasakah and the nearby city of Qamishli for the first time in seven years, according to Syrian state media. Telegraph.co.uk and YouTube.com/TelegraphTV are websites of The Telegraph, the UK's best-selling quality daily newspaper providing news and analysis on UK and world events, business, sport, lifestyle and culture.

By Elliot Hannon
In an interview with ABC News over the weekend, Hunter Biden expressed second thoughts about his role on a Ukrainian gas company at the heart of President Trump’s attempts to smear his father. “Did I make a mistake? Maybe in the grand scheme of things, yeah.” Biden said. “But did I make a mistake based on some ethical lapse? Absolutely not.” In what was his first public appearance since he was thrust into the spotlight by Rudy Giuliani’s extracurricular efforts to dig up dirt on political rival Joe Biden, the 49-year-old son of the presidential candidate said his work on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma was above board, but that he regretted the impact it had had on the race. “What I regret is not taking into account that there would be a Rudy Giuliani and a president of the United States that would be listening to this—this ridiculous conspiracy idea,” Biden said. “I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father… That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that. Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) - Well, this is a new one.
In the wake of President Donald Trump's disastrous decision to pull American troops out of northern Syria, House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) suggested that she had figured out what led Trump to this: Impeachment! Yes, impeachment. Here's Cheney on "Fox & Friends" on Monday: "The impeachment proceedings that are going on and what the Democrats are doing themselves to try to weaken this President is part of this. It was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border. And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they're doing with impeachment proceedings." Wait, wait, wait. So because Democrats -- three weeks as of Tuesday -- formally launched an impeachment inquiry centered on Trump's conduct in Ukraine, the President decided to go pull troops out of Syria? The argument here is, well, nonsensical. The decision to pull troops was Trump's and Trump's alone. The reason that the Turks began to "roll across the border" is because of the announced withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria. And again, that withdrawal decision was Trump's -- against, it's worth adding, the clear wishes of his own party. Cheney's argument would be funny if she wasn't serious about it. There is simply no way to lay Trump's decision on Democrats or impeachment. Like, none. If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was monitoring the impeachment efforts to drive his military strategy, why didn't he invade Syria three weeks ago? What's that, you say? Because American troops were still there? Oh, yeah! Cheney was an early critic of Trump's move, tweeting on October 9, "News from Syria is sickening. Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America's allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS."

Los Angeles (AFP) - Basketball superstar LeBron James was accused of turning a blind eye to Chinese repression on Tuesday after he criticized a Houston Rockets executive for angering China with a "misinformed" tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong. James told reporters that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey "wasn't educated" on Hong Kong and should have kept his mouth shut, as the outspoken Lakers forward waded into a charged debate that other high-profile NBA figures have shied away from. "So many people could have been harmed not only financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually. So just be careful with what we tweet, and we say, and we do," James told reporters when asked for comment in Los Angeles after returning from the NBA's annual China tour. His remarks drew praise from Chinese social media users, who have savaged Morey for butting into the country's affairs, but the US reaction on Twitter was swift and harsh. "@KingJames — you're parroting communist propaganda. China is running torture camps and you know it," said Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, referring to China's reported incarceration of up to one million Muslim Uighurs in prison-like camps. The backlash in China against Morey's comments has cast a cloud over the NBA's lucrative broadcasting, merchandising and sponsorship interests in the country, where it has legions of fans.

By Bill Bostock
A video shows the inside of a US military camp overtaken by Russian mercenaries working with Syrian forces, shortly after American troops abandoned it. US forces left the Manbij camp in northern Syria early Tuesday following an October 6 directive from President Donald Trump to leave a coalition with the Syrian Democratic Forces fighting the terrorist group ISIS. A spokesman for the US operation confirmed the departure on Tuesday. The US's decision to pull out gave Turkish forces the green light to invade Syria on Wednesday and drive out the SDF, which contains Kurdish fighters. Turkey considers the Kurds terrorists and has long vowed to destroy them. Over the weekend, the SDF allied with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government to fight the Turkish offensive. Here's a video of the abandoned camp:

Russia has said it will not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces, as Turkey's military offensive in northern Syria continues.
BBC News - "This would simply be unacceptable... and therefore we will not allow it, of course," said Moscow's special envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev. The withdrawal of US troops from the region, announced last week, gave Turkey a "green light", critics say. Russia is a key military ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Mr Lavrentyev, during a visit to the United Arab Emirates, described Turkey's offensive as "unacceptable". He said Turkish and Syrian officials were in contact to avoid any conflict. And Russia's defence ministry said its forces, which have been deployed in Syria since 2015, were patrolling along the "line of contact" between Syrian and Turkish forces. How did we get here? The Turkish offensive, which began last week, aims to push the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border region. Turkey considers the biggest militia in the SDF a terrorist organisation. The Turkish government wants to create a "safe zone" in the area, where it can resettle Syrian refugees currently in Turkey. Many of them are not Kurds and critics warn this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.

By Natasha Turak
The head of Russia’s $10 billion state investment vehicle is optimistic about repairing relations with Washington, he told CNBC on Sunday, pointing to Moscow’s growing bond with Saudi Arabia as a precedent. Russia isn’t trying to fill a void in the Middle East left by what some describe as an inward-turning America, Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund (RDIF) told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Riyadh. He insisted that Russia’s growing investments in and trade with Saudi Arabia should be seen as “building bridges” rather than engaging the strategic competition that many in the West regularly warn about. “Really we are not talking about, you know, the strategic partnerships that Saudi has with the U.S., and what we are doing is not against the U.S. It’s actually building something that is very positive,” Dmitriev said. “And building something that helps Saudi economy, Russian economy — and builds the friendship between our nations.” The CEO’s comments come at a time of frigid relations between the U.S. and Russia, as the latter remains under U.S. sanctions and has been accused by the U.S. intelligence community of meddling in the 2016 election and posing a continued threat to the presidential election in 2020. Dmitriev pointed to his country’s blossoming friendship with Saudi Arabia — something that only four years ago was in serious doubt, given the animosity between the two during the Cold War. The last few years, by contrast, have seen the creation of a historic oil production alliance led by Riyadh and Moscow, increased trade and investment, and the first state visit by a Saudi monarch to Russia. “I think we need to go back to basics... I’m sure the Saudi example is very interesting to try at some point to restore the relationship with the U.S., because if we could do it with Saudi Arabia in four years, why can’t we do it with the U.S. going forward?” he asked. “Many people didn’t believe that we’ll make much progress,” Dmitriev said of the relationship with the Saudi kingdom. “And it seemed too distant because Russia and Saudi Arabia were worlds apart. We had lots of differences during Soviet times. We had lots of differences in many politics in the Middle East. But now I can report to you that we made really breakthrough and this is a breakthrough because President Putin and King Salman and now Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman really believed that it’s possible to bring Russia and Saudi Arabia closer together.”

The Vatican said its police chief, 57-year-old Domenico Giani, bore no responsibility for a leaked police flyer but resigned to avoid disrupting the investigation.
By Associated Press
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican's latest leaks scandal claimed its first victim Monday, as Pope Francis' chief bodyguard resigned over the leak of a Vatican police flyer identifying five employees who were suspended as part of a financial investigation. The Vatican said its police chief, 57-year-old Domenico Giani, bore no responsibility for the leaked flyer but resigned to avoid disrupting the investigation and "out of love for the church and faithfulness" to the pope. The person who leaked the document to the Italian newsweekly L'Espresso remains unknown. Giani, a 20-year veteran of the Vatican's security services, has stood by Francis' side and jogged alongside his popemobile during hundreds of public appearances and foreign trips. He also was the chief bodyguard for Pope Benedict XVI, and the Vatican took pains to stress his "unquestionable faithfulness and loyalty" to the Holy See. Giani had signed the Oct. 2 police flyer after his agents raided two Holy See offices — the secretariat of state and the Vatican's financial intelligence unit — as part of an investigation by Vatican criminal prosecutors into alleged financial irregularities surrounding a money-losing London real estate deal.

By Kevin Breuninger
President Donald Trump signed an executive order sanctioning Turkish officials, hiking tariffs on Turkish steel up to 50% and “immediately” halting trade negotiations with the country, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed Monday. Trump had announced the order in a lengthy statement posted to Twitter earlier Monday afternoon. “This Order will enable the United States to impose powerful additional sanctions on those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria,” Trump’s statement read. The retaliatory measures followed Trump’s decision to order the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Syria’s northern border with Turkey, which has enabled Turkish forces to launch an offensive against the U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria. Turkey and Kurdish groups have clashed for years, and Ankara recently signaled that it planned to carry out operations against the Kurds near Syria’s northern border with Turkey. The White House announced Oct. 6, following a call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that it would pull U.S. troops out of the area. The abrupt foreign policy shift drew a rare wave of bipartisan criticism against the president, including from some of his most committed allies in Congress. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for instance, publicly trashed Trump’s move and announced plans to work with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on a joint resolution to overturn the withdrawal. Spokesmen for the Kurds have accused the U.S. of having “abandoned us to a Turkish massacre.” Trump took to social media to defend himself against the torrent of criticism. He pushed back on the more hawkish voices against him, writing Sunday: “Those that mistakenly got us into the Middle East Wars are still pushing to fight.” Shortly before announcing the sanctions and tariff hikes, Trump wrote in a thread of tweets that “Anyone who wants to assist Syria in protecting the Kurds is good with me, whether it is Russia, China, or Napoleon Bonaparte.” “I hope they all do great,” Trump said of whoever might come to help the Kurds, a stateless ethnic group that was integral to helping the U.S. defeat the ISIS caliphate in the Middle East. “We are 7,000 miles away!”

By Brendan Cole
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that a new nuclear weapons deal needed to be struck urgently as he criticized the decision by Donald Trump to pull the U.S. out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty which had been in place since the Cold War. In an interview with Arabic-speaking journalists ahead of his visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Putin reiterated Russia's opposition to the withdrawal in February from the INF, which had been signed in 1987 by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. It banned missiles with ranges of between 310 and 3,400 miles but the U.S. and Nato had accused Russia of violating the pact by deploying a new type of cruise missile, a claim Moscow denied. Putin said: "It think it was a mistake…and that they could have gone a different path. I do understand the U.S. concerns. While other countries are free to enhance their defences, Russia and the U.S. have tied their own hands with this treaty. However, I still believe it was not worth ruining the deal; I believe there were other ways out of the situation." Putin said that the U.S. must back a new START Treaty, which expires in 2021, to restrict a race to acquire strategic nuclear weapons. "The new START Treaty is actually the only treaty that we have to prevent us from falling back into a full-scale arms race. To make sure it is extended, we need to be working on it right now. We have already submitted our proposals; they are on the table of the U.S. administration. There has been no answer so far. "If this treaty is not extended, the world will have no means of limiting the number of offensive weapons, and this is bad news. The situation will change, globally. It will become more precarious, and the world will be less safe and a much less predictable place than today," Putin said, according to a transcript of the interview on the Kremlin website. Putin said that his doubt over the U.S. commitment to nuclear disarmament stretched back to 2002, when under President George W. Bush, Washington withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which had imposed limits on missile defence systems.

CNN - CNN's Daniel Dale fact-checks some of President Donald Trump's false claims from the past week. more...

The Russian air force deliberately bombed at least four hospitals in rebel-controlled parts of Syria, intercepted radio messages suggest. Russia has been accused of deliberately targeting medical facilities and personnel repeatedly since it entered the war in Syria on the side of Bashar Assad in 2015. It has consistently denied the allegations, saying its aircraft only bomb carefully selected targets. But in recordings of transmissions obtained by the New York Times, Russian ground controllers are heard giving pilots the precise coordinates of hospitals just minutes before they were destroyed in airstrikes. The conversations, carried on in terse Russian military phrases, reportedly consist of a dispatcher issuing a pilot with coordinates; the pilot confirming receipt; the dispatcher giving a green light for the strike; and the pilot confirming he has hit the target. The paper says checking the map-references use by the pilots and cross referencing the time of the transmissions with data gathered by plane spotters and witness accounts shows the aircraft were responsible for attacks on four hospitals in southern Idlib province, the last significant pocket held by rebel groups. The Nabad al Hayat Surgical Hospital, Kafr Nabl Surgical Hospital, the Kafr Zita Cave Hospital, the Al Amal Orthopedic Hospital were all bombed in a 12 hour period on May 5 and May 6 this year. All four were on a “deconfliction” list of medical facilities provided by the United Nations to all sides, including Russia, in an effort to reduce civilian casualties.

By Ryan Browne, CNN
(CNN) - President Donald Trump is ordering most of the remaining US forces out of northern Syria, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday. "We have American forces likely caught between two opposing, advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation. I spoke with the President last night, after discussions with the rest of the national security team, and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Which is where most of our forces are." The order comes as Turkish forces are pushing further south into Syria. Last week, the country launched its long-threatened incursion into the country after Trump ordered a small contingent of about 50 US troops to be pulled back from the border area amid a belief that a Turkish incursion was imminent. Esper did not initially make it entirely clear whether the withdrawal would mean the US troops would be leaving Syria entirely or relocating elsewhere in the country away from where Turkish forces are operating. The Pentagon did not respond to CNN's request Sunday for clarification on the troop withdrawal. While the majority of the 1,000 US troops in Syria are in the northern part of the country, the US military also maintains a small presence in southern Syria at a base in At Tanf where the US trains local anti-ISIS fighters that are not affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces. A US official familiar with the situation on the ground said earlier Sunday that US forces in Syria are preparing to withdraw from the country. The official said the situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly in northeast Syria, adding that Turkish proxies, which the official describes as including "extremists," have advanced along the strategically important M4 highway setting up multiple checkpoints. He says these proxy forces are wearing SDF uniforms and killing civilians on the highway. US Forces and SDF troops no longer control ground lines of communication and have no control over Turkish aircraft overhead. "US Forces are at risk of being isolated and there is increased risk of confrontation between Turkish proxies and US Forces unless Turkey halts their advance immediately," the official says. Situation in Syria: Prior to Turkey's offensive last week, as a confidence building measure with the country, the US convinced the Syrian Kurds to dismantle their defensive fortifications along the border and pull their fighters back. The US said Turkey had agreed to the arrangement which sought to prevent unilateral Turkish military action. Trump then had the Pentagon pull back US troops along that part of the border. While Kurdish officials and Republican and Democratic lawmakers have argued that the pullback helped provide a de facto green light for the Turkish attack, senior members of the Trump administration have insisted Turkey would have invaded regardless of whether US troops had remained and that the US has not deserted the Syrian Kurds. However, the US government has not taken action yet to stop the Turkish incursion. Esper said Friday the US is not abandoning its Kurdish allies, although he made it clear the US military will not intervene in the fight. "We are not abandoning our Kurdish partner forces and US troops remain with them in other parts of Syria," Esper told reporters at the Pentagon. "We remain in close coordination with the Syrian Democratic Forces who helped us destroy the physical caliphate of ISIS, but I will not place American service members in the middle of a longstanding conflict between the Turks and the Kurds, this is not why we are in Syria," Esper said.

Turkey's invasion began Wednesday after President Donald Trump first ordered U.S. troops to pull back from the area to clear the way.
By Yuliya Talmazan and Mo Abbas
U.S. troops were preparing to withdraw from northern Syria Sunday as Turkish forces continued their advance. Hundreds of Islamic State group supporters escaped from a displacement camp in the area and there were reports of alleged atrocities amid growing international alarm. About 1,000 troops will leave the area "as safely and quickly as possible," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS' "Face the Nation" in an interview Sunday. They will not leave the country entirely, he said. Esper said that the conflict between Turkish forces and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters had become "untenable" for the U.S. military. President Donald Trump has largely stood by his decision to pull U.S. troops back to clear the way for Turkish forces, despite growing chaos in the wake of their advance. U.S. allies have urged an end to the Turkish invasion, which has sparked fears of a renewed humanitarian crisis in the region and a resurgent ISIS threat. Trump said Sunday that it was "very smart not to be involved in the intense fighting along the Turkish Border, for a change." The president added that he was working with Congress on imposing "powerful sanctions on Turkey." The U.S. previously set down red lines for the Turkish offensive that would trigger economic sanctions, including ethnic cleansing and indiscriminate fire directed at civilian populations. 'Chaos in the camp' The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday that close to 800 members of a camp holding the families of ISIS fighters had escaped after Turkish shelling. Some Kurdish guards were forced to leave their posts as fighting neared a camp for displaced people near the town of Ain Eissa, a spokesperson for the U.K.-based observatory told NBC News. "It’s now chaos in the camp and there are people still escaping," Rami Abdulrahman said early Sunday. NBC News has been unable to independently verify the claim. The Turkish military and Turkey-backed Syrian fighters continued to advance toward Ain Eissa, the administrative center of the Kurdish-held areas. As they drove forward, video and photographs appearing to show alleged atrocities carried out by Turkish-backed fighters spread on social media. Multiple U.S. officials told NBC News the video, which appeared to show the execution of a Kurd, appeared to be genuine. The video is disturbing and NBC News has blurred the most graphic images.

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