அரசியல் பிரச்சாரத்தின் ஆதாரக் கோட்பாடு

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அரசியல் பிரச்சாரத்தின் ஆதாரக் கோட்பாடு.

'' நீதி, மதம், அரசியல், சமுதாயம் சம்பந்தமான எல்லாவித சொல்லடுக்குகளுக்கும் பிரகடனங்களுக்கும் வாக்குறுதிகளுக்கும் பின்னே ஏதாவதொரு வர்க்கத்தின் நலன்கள் ஒழிந்து நிற்பதைக் கண்டுகொள்ள மக்கள் தெரிந்துகொள்ளாத வரையில் அரசியலில் அவர்கள் முட்டாள்தனமான ஏமாளிகளாகவும் தம்மைத் தாமே ஏமாற்றிக்கொள்வோராகவும் இருந்தனர், எப்போதும் இருப்பார்கள். பழைய ஏற்பாடு ஒவ்வொன்றும் எவ்வளவுதான் காட்டு மிராண்டித் தனமாகவும் அழுகிப் போனதாகவும் தோன்றிய போதிலும் ஏதாவது ஒரு ஆளும்வர்க்கத்தின் சக்தியைக் கொண்டு அது நிலைநிறுத்தப்பட்டு வருகிறது. சீர்திருத்தங்கள், அபிவிருத்திகள் ஆகியவற்றின் ஆதரவாளர்கள் இதை உணராத வரையில் பழைய அமைப்பு முறையின் பாதுகாவலர்கள் அவர்களை என்றென்றும் முட்டாளாக்கிக் கொண்டே இருப்பார்கள். இந்த வர்க்கங்களின் எதிர்ப்பைத் தகர்த்து ஒழிப்பதற்கு ஒரே ஒரு வழிதான் உண்டு. அது என்ன?

பழைமையைத் துடைத்தெறியவும் புதுமையைச் சிருக்ஷ்டிக்கவும் திறன் பெற்றவையும், சமுதாயத்தில் தாங்கள் வகிக்கும் ஸ்தானத்தின் காரணமாக அப்படிச் சிருக்ஷ்டித்துக் தீரவேண்டிய நிர்ப்பந்தத்திலிருக்கிறவையுமான சக்திகளை, நம்மைச் சூழ்ந்துள்ள இதே சமுதாயத்துக்குள்ளேயே நாம் கண்டுபிடித்து, அந்தச் சக்திகளுக்கு ஞானமூட்டிப் போராட்டத்துக்கு ஸ்தாபன ரீதியாகத் திரட்ட வேண்டும். இது ஒன்றேதான் வழி. ''

மாமேதை தோழர் லெனின்
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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Donald Trump's State of the Union speech 2018: full transcript




Donald Trump's State of the Union speech 2018: full transcript

31 JANUARY 2018 • 5:57AM

Text of President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, as provided by Federal News Service:

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, first lady of the United States, and my fellow Americans, less than one year has passed since I first stood at this podium in this majestic chamber to speak on behalf of the American people and to address their concerns, their hopes and their dreams. That night, our new Administration had already taken very swift action. A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land.

Each day since, we have gone forward with a clear vision and a righteous mission: to make America great again for all Americans.

Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success. We have faced challenges we expected and others we could never have imagined. We have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We have endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America's soul and the steel in America's spine.

Each test has forged new American heroes to remind us who we are and show us what we can be. We saw the volunteers of the Cajun Navy, racing to the rescue with their fishing boats to save people in the aftermath of a totally devastating hurricane.

We saw strangers shielding strangers from a hail of gunfire on the Las Vegas strip. We heard tales of Americans, like Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashlee Leppert, who is here tonight in the gallery with Melania.

Ashlee was aboard one of the first helicopters on the scene in Houston during the Hurricane Harvey. Through 18 hours of wind and rain, Ashlee braved live power lines and deep water to help save more than 40 lives. Ashlee, we all thank you. Thank you very much.

We heard about Americans like firefighter David Dahlberg. He's here with us, also. David faced down walls of flame to rescue almost 60 children trapped at a California summer camp threatened by those devastating wildfires. To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, everywhere, we are with you, we love you, and we always will pull through together always.

Thank you to David and the brave people of California. Thank you very much, David. Great job.

Some trials over the past year touched this chamber very personally. With us tonight is one of the toughest people ever to serve in this House, a guy who took a bullet, almost died, and was back to work three-and-a-half months later, the legend from Louisiana, Congressman Steve Scalise.

I think they like you, Steve.

We're incredibly grateful for the heroic efforts of the Capitol Police officers, the Alexandria Police, and the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who saved his life and the lives of many others, some in this room. In the aftermath - yes. Yes.

In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people. But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people. This is really the key. These are the people we were elected to serve.

Thank you.

Over the last year, the world has seen what we always knew: that no people on Earth are so fearless, or daring, or determined as Americans. If there is a mountain, we climb it. If there's a frontier, we cross it. If there's a challenge, we tame it. If there's an opportunity, we seize it.

So let's begin tonight by recognizing that the state of our union is strong because our people are strong.

And together we are building a safe, strong, and proud America.

Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including ... including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone. Tremendous number. After years and years of wage stagnation, we are finally seeing rising wages. Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. And something I'm very proud of, African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded. And Hispanic-American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history.

Small-business confidence is at an all-time high. The stock market has smashed one record after another, gaining $8 trillion and more in value in just this short period of time. The great news ... the great news for Americans, 401K, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts have gone through the roof.

And just as I promised the American people from this podium 11 months ago, we enacted the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history. Our massive tax cuts provide tremendous relief for the middle class and small business. To lower tax rates for hardworking Americans, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for everyone. Now the first $24,000 earned by a married couple is completely tax-free. We also doubled the child tax credit. A typical family of four making $75,000 will see their tax bill reduced by $2,000, slashing their tax bill in half.

In April, this will be the last time you will ever file under the old and very broken system, and millions of Americans will have more take-home pay starting next month. A lot more.

We eliminated an especially cruel tax that fell mostly on Americans making less than $50,000 a year, forcing them to pay tremendous penalties simply because they couldn't afford government-ordered health plans. We repealed the core of the disastrous Obamacare. The individual mandate is now gone.

We slashed the business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 21 percent, so American companies can compete and win against anyone else anywhere in the world. These changes alone are estimated to increase average family income by more than $4,000. A lot of money.

Small businesses have also received a massive tax cut and can now deduct 20 percent of their business income. Here tonight are Steve Staub and Sandy Keplinger of Staub Manufacturing, a small beautiful business in Ohio. They've just finished the best year in their 20-year history. Because of tax reform, they are handing out raises, hiring an additional 14 people, and expanding into the building next door. Good feeling.

One of Staub's employees, Corey Adams, is also with us tonight. Corey is an all-American worker. He supported himself through high school, lost his job during the 2008 recession, and was later hired by Staub, where he trained to become a welder. Like many hardworking Americans, Corey plans to invest his tax cut raise into his new home and his two daughters' education. Corey, please stand. And he's a great welder. I was told that by the man that owns that company that's doing so well, so congratulations, Corey.

Since we passed tax cuts, roughly 3 million workers have already gotten tax cut bonuses, many of them thousands and thousands of dollars per worker. And it's getting more every month, every week. Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America and hire another 20,000 workers.

And just a little while ago, ExxonMobil announced a $50 billion investment in the United States. Just a little while ago.

This, in fact, is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American dream.

So to every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you've been or where you've come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve absolutely anything.

Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have and what kind of a nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family can do anything. We all share the same home, the same heart, the same destiny, and the same great American flag.

Together, we are rediscovering the American way. In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life. The motto is "in God we trust." And we celebrate our police, our military, and our amazing veterans as heroes who deserve our total and unwavering support.

Here tonight is Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old boy from Redding, California, who noticed that veterans' graves were not marked with flags on Veterans Day. He decided all by himself to change that and started a movement that has now placed 40,000 flags at the graves of our great heroes. Preston, a job well done.

Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. And I met Preston a little while ago, and he is something very special, that I can tell you. Great future. Thank you very much for all you've done, Preston. Thank you very much.

Preston's reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance, and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.

Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return. For the last year, we have sought to restore the bonds of trust between our citizens and their government.

Working with the Senate, we are appointing judges who will interpret the Constitution as written, including a great new Supreme Court justice and more circuit court judges than any new administration in the history of our country.

We are totally defending our Second Amendment and have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty. And we are serving our brave veterans, including giving our veterans choice in their health care decisions.

Last year, Congress also passed, and I signed, the landmark V.A. Accountability Act. Since its passage, my administration has already removed more than 1,500 V.A. employees who failed to give our veterans the care they deserve, and we are hiring talented people who love our vets as much as we do.

And I will not stop until our veterans are properly taken care of, which has been my promise to them from the very beginning of this great journey. All Americans deserve accountability and respect, and that's what we are giving to our wonderful heroes, our veterans. Thank you.

So tonight, I call on Congress to empower every cabinet secretary with the authority to reward good workers and to remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people.

In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in the history of our country. We have ended the war on American energy, and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal. We are now very proudly an exporter of energy to the world.

In Detroit, I halted government mandates that crippled America's great, beautiful autoworkers so that we can get Motor City revving its engines again. And that's what's happening.

Many car companies are now building and expanding plants in the United States, something we haven't seen for decades. Chrysler is moving a major plant from Mexico to Michigan. Toyota and Mazda are opening up a plant in Alabama, a big one. And we haven't seen this in a long time. It's all coming back.

Very soon, auto plants and other plants will be opening up all over our country. This is all news Americans are totally unaccustomed to hearing. For many years, companies and jobs were only leaving us. But now they are roaring back, they're coming back. They want to be where the action is. They want to be in the United States of America. That's where they want to be.

Exciting progress is happening every single day. To speed access to breakthrough cures and affordable generic drugs, last year the FDA approved more new and generic drugs and medical devices than ever before in our country's history.

We also believe that patients with terminal conditions and terminal illness should have access to experimental treatment immediately that could potentially save their lives.

People who are terminally ill should not have to go from country to country to seek a cure. I want to give them a chance right here at home. It's time for Congress to give these wonderful, incredible Americans the right to try.

One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. And it's very, very unfair. That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of my top priorities for the year. And prices will come down substantially. Watch.

America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our wealth. Our nation has lost its wealth, but we're getting it back so fast. The era of economic surrender is totally over. 

From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and, very importantly, reciprocal.

We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones. And they'll be good ones, but they'll be fair. And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property through strong enforcement of our trade rules. As we rebuild our industries, it is also time to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.

America is a nation of builders. We built the Empire State Building in just one year. Isn't it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a minor permit approved for the building of a simple road? I am asking both parties to come together to give us safe, fast, reliable, and modern infrastructure that our economy needs and our people deserve.

Tonight I'm calling on Congress to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs. Every federal dollar should be leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment to permanently fix the infrastructure deficit. And we can do it.

Any bill must also streamline the permitting and approval process, getting it down to no more than two years, and perhaps even one.

Together, we can reclaim our great building heritage. We will build gleaming new roads, bridges, highways, railways, and waterways all across our land. And we will do it with American heart, American hands, and American grit.

We want every American to know the dignity of a hard day's work. We want every child to be safe in their home at night. And we want every citizen to be proud of this land that we all love so much. We can lift our citizens from welfare to work, from dependence to independence, and from poverty to prosperity. As ... as tax cuts create new jobs, let's invest in workforce development and let's invest in job training, which we need so badly.

Let's open great vocational schools so our future workers can learn a craft and realize their full potential. And let's support working families by supporting paid family leave.

As America regains its strength, opportunity must be extended to all citizens. That is why this year we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life.

Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families.

For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They've allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.

Here tonight are two fathers and two mothers: Evelyn Rodriguez, Freddy Cuevas, Elizabeth Alvarado, and Robert Mickens. Their two teenage daughters - Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens - were close friends on Long Island.

But in September 2016, on the eve of Nisa's 16th birthday, such a happy time it should have been, neither of them came home. These two precious girls were brutally murdered while walking together in their hometown. Six members of the savage MS-13 gang have been charged with Kayla and Nisa's murders. Many of these gang members took advantage of glaring loopholes in our laws to enter the country as illegal unaccompanied alien minors and wound up in Kayla and Nisa's high school.

Evelyn, Elizabeth, Freddy, and Robert, tonight, everyone in this chamber is praying for you. Everyone in America is grieving for you. Please stand. Thank you very much.

I want you to know that 320 million hearts are right now breaking for you. We love you. Thank you. While we cannot imagine the depths of that kind of sorrow, we can make sure that other families never have to endure this kind of pain.

Tonight, I am calling on Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminal gangs, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol agents - these are great people, these are great, great people that work so hard in the midst of such danger - so that this can never happen again.

The United States is a compassionate nation. We are proud that we do more than any other country anywhere in the world to help the needy, the struggling, and the underprivileged all over the world. But as president of the United States, my highest loyalty, my greatest compassion, my constant concern is for America's children, America's struggling workers, and America's forgotten communities. I want our youth to grow up to achieve great things. I want our poor to have their chance to rise.

So tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties - Democrats and Republicans - to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed.

My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans, to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American dream. Because Americans are dreamers, too.

Here tonight is one leader in the effort to defend our country, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez. He goes by DJ. And CJ. He said call me either one. So we'll call you CJ.

Served 15 years in the Air Force before becoming an ICE agent and spending the last 15 years fighting gang violence and getting dangerous criminals off of our streets. Tough job. At one point, MS-13 leaders ordered CJ's murder, and they wanted it to happen quickly. But 

he did not cave to threats or to fear. Last May, he commanded an operation to track down gang members on Long Island. His team has arrested nearly 400, including more than 220 MS-13 gang members.

And I have to tell you what the Border Patrol and ICE have done. We have sent thousands and thousands and thousands of MS-13 horrible people out of this country or into our prisons. So I just want to congratulate you, CJ. You're a brave guy. Thank you very much.

And I asked CJ, what's the secret? He said, "We're just tougher than they are." And I like that answer.

Now let's get Congress to send you - and all of the people in this great chamber have to do it, we have no choice - CJ, we're going to send you reinforcements and we're going to send them to you quickly. It's what you need.

Over the next few weeks, the House and Senate will be voting on an immigration reform package. In recent months, my administration has met extensively with both Democrats and Republicans to craft a bipartisan approach to immigration reform. Based on these 

discussions, we presented Congress with a detailed proposal that should be supported by both parties as a fair compromise, one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs and must have.

Here are the four pillars of our plan. The first pillar of our framework generously offers a path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by their parents at a young age. That covers almost three times more people than the previous administration 

covered. Under our plan, those who meet education and work requirements, and show good moral character, will be able to become full citizens of the United States over a 12-year period.

The second pillar fully secures the border. That means building a great wall on the southern border, and it means hiring more heroes like CJ to keep our communities safe. Crucially, our plan closes the terrible loopholes exploited by criminals and terrorists to enter our 

country, and it finally ends the horrible and dangerous practice of catch and release.

The third pillar ends the visa lottery, a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit, or the safety of American people. It's time to begin moving toward a merit-based immigration system, one that admits people who are skilled, who want to 

work, who will contribute to our society, and who will love and respect our country.

The fourth and final pillar protects the nuclear family by ending chain migration. Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives. Under our plan, we focus on the immediate family by limiting sponsorships to 

spouses and minor children.

This vital reform is necessary, not just for our economy, but for our security and for the future of America. In recent weeks, two terrorist attacks in New York were made possible by the visa lottery and chain migration. In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we 

can just no longer afford. It's time to reform ... these outdated immigration rules and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.

These four pillars represent a down-the-middle compromise and one that will create a safe, modern, and lawful immigration system. For over 30 years, Washington has tried and failed to solve this problem. This Congress can be the one that finally makes it happen.

Most importantly, these four pillars will produce legislation that fulfills my ironclad pledge to sign a bill that puts America first. So let's come together, set politics aside, and finally get the job done.

These reforms will also support our response to the terrible crisis of opioid and drug addiction. Never before has it been like it is now. It is terrible. We have to do something about it.

In 2016, we lost 64,000 Americans to drug overdoses, 174 deaths per day, seven per hour. We must get much tougher on drug dealers and pushers if we are going to succeed in stopping this scourge.

My administration is committed to fighting the drug epidemic and helping get treatment for those in need, for those who have been so terribly hurt. The struggle will be long and it will be difficult, but as Americans always do, in the end, we will succeed, we will prevail.

As we have seen tonight, the most difficult challenges bring out the best in America. We see a vivid expression of this truth in the story of the Holets family of New Mexico. Ryan Holets is 27 years old, an officer with the Albuquerque Police Department. He's here tonight with 

his wife, Rebecca. Thank you, Ryan.

Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she didn't know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby.

In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him: "You will do it because you can." He heard those words. He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then he went home to tell his wife, Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. The Holets named their new 

daughter Hope.

Ryan and Rebecca, you embody the goodness of our nation. Thank you. Thank you, Ryan and Rebecca.

As we rebuild America's strength and confidence at home, we are also restoring our strength and standing abroad. Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values. In 

confronting these horrible dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense.

For this reason, I am asking Congress to end the dangerous defense sequester and fully fund our great military.

As part of our defense, we must modernize and rebuild our nuclear arsenal, hopefully never having to use it, but making it so strong and so powerful that it will deter any acts of aggression by any other nation or anyone else.

Perhaps some day in the future there will be a magical moment when the countries of the world will get together to eliminate their nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, we are not there yet, sadly.

Last year, I also pledged that we would work with our allies to extinguish ISIS from the face of the Earth. One year later, I am proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated very close to 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and in 

Syria and in other locations, as well. But there is much more work to be done. We will continue our fight until ISIS is defeated.

Army Staff Sergeant Justin Peck is here tonight. Near Raqqa last November, Justin and his comrade, Chief Petty Officer Kenton Stacy, were on a mission to clear buildings that ISIS had rigged with explosive so that civilians could return to that city, hopefully soon and 

hopefully safely.

Clearing the second floor of a vital hospital, Kenton Stacy was severely wounded by an explosion. Immediately, Justin bounded into the booby-trapped and unbelievably dangerous and unsafe building and found Kenton, but in very, very bad shape. He applied pressure to 

the wound and inserted a tube to reopen an airway. He then performed CPR for 20 straight minutes during the ground transport and maintained artificial respiration through two-and-a-half hours and through emergency surgery.

Kenton Stacy would have died if it were not for Justin's selfless love for his fellow warrior. Tonight, Kenton is recovering in Texas. Raqqa is liberated. And Justin is wearing his new Bronze Star, with a V for Valor. Staff Sergeant Peck: All of America salutes you.

Terrorists who do things like place bombs in civilian hospitals are evil. When possible, we have no choice but to annihilate them. When necessary, we must be able to detain and question them. But we must be clear: Terrorists are not merely criminals. They are unlawful 

enemy combatants.

And when captured overseas, they should be treated like the terrorists they are. In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield, including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi, who we captured, who we had, who 

we released.

So today, I am keeping another promise. I just signed prior to waling in an order directing Secretary Mattis - who is doing a great job, thank you ... to re-examine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay.

I am asking Congress to ensure that in the fight against ISIS and Al Qaida we continue to have all necessary power to detain terrorists, wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them. And in many cases, for them it will now be Guantanamo Bay.

At the same time, as of a few months ago, our warriors in Afghanistan have new rules of engagement. Along with their heroic Afghan partners, our military is no longer undermined by artificial timelines, and we no longer tell our enemies our plans.

Last month, I also took an action endorsed unanimously by the U.S. Senate just months before. I recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Shortly afterwards, dozens of countries voted in the United Nations General Assembly against America's sovereign right to make this decision. In 2016, American taxpayers generously sent those same countries more than $20 billion in aid. That is why tonight I am asking 

Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests and only go to friends of America, not enemies of America.

As we strengthen friendships all around the world, we are also restoring clarity about our adversaries. When the people of Iran rose up against the crimes of their corrupt dictatorship, I did not stay silent. America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom.

I am asking Congress to address the fundamental flaws in the terrible Iran nuclear deal. My administration has also imposed tough sanctions on the communist and socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela.

But no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea. North Korea's reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland. We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from ever happening.

Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation. I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this very dangerous position.

We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and to our allies.

Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia. And a great student, he was. On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea. At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state.

After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June, horribly injured and on the verge of death. He passed away just days after his return.

Otto's wonderful parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are here with us tonight, along with Otto's brother and sister, Austin and Greta. Please. Incredible people. You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength truly inspires us all. Thank you very much. Thank you. Tonight we pledge to honor Otto's memory with total American resolve. Thank you.

Finally ... we are joined by one more witness to the ominous nature of this regime. His name is Mr. Ji Seong-ho.

In 1996, Seong-ho was a starving boy in North Korea. One day, he tried to steal coal from a railroad car to barter for a few scraps of food, which were very hard to get. In the process, he passed out on the train tracks, exhausted from hunger. He woke up as a train ran over his limbs. He then endured multiple amputations without anything to dull the pain or the hurt.

His brother and sister gave what little food they had to help him recover and ate dirt themselves, permanently stunting their own growth. Later, he was tortured by North Korean authorities after returning from a brief visit to China. His tormentors wanted to know if he'd met any Christians. He had, and he resolved after that to be free.

Seong-ho traveled thousands of miles on crutches all across China and Southeast Asia to freedom. Most of his family followed. His father was caught trying to escape and was tortured to death. Today he lives in Seoul, where he rescues other defectors, and broadcasts into North Korea what the regime fears most: the truth.

Today he has a new leg, but Seong-ho, I understand you still keep those old crutches as a reminder of how far you've come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all. Please. Thank you.

Seong-ho's story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom. It was that same yearning for freedom that nearly 250 years ago gave birth to a special place called America. It was a small cluster of colonies caught between a great ocean and a vast wilderness. It was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea, that they could rule themselves, that they could chart their own destiny, and that, together, they could light up the entire world.

That is what our country has always been about. That is what Americans have always stood for, always strived for, and always done.

Atop the dome of this Capitol stands the Statue of Freedom. She stands tall and dignified among the monuments to our ancestors who fought and lived and died to protect her. Monuments to Washington and Jefferson, and Lincoln and King. Memorials to the heroes of Yorktown and Saratoga, to young Americans who shed their blood on the shores of Normandy and the fields beyond. And others who went down in the waters of the Pacific and the skies all over Asia.

And freedom stands tall over one more monument: this one. This Capitol. This living monument. This is the monument to the American people.

We're a people whose heroes live not only in the past, but all around us, defending hope, pride, and defending the American way. They work in every trade. They sacrifice to raise a family. They care for our children at home. They defend our flag abroad. And they are strong moms and brave kids. They are firefighters and police officers and border agents, medics and Marines. But above all else, they are Americans. And this Capitol, this city, this Nation belongs entirely to them.

Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them. Americans fill the world with art and music. They push the bounds of science and discovery. And they forever remind us of what we should never, ever forget: The people dreamed this country. The people built this country. And it's the people who are making America great again.

As long as we are proud of who we are and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve. As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will never fail.

Our families will thrive. Our people will prosper. And our nation will forever be safe and strong and proud and mighty and free. Thank you, and God bless America. Good night. 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Syria talks in Russia end, ignore key opposition demands

Participants attend a session of the Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Rocky Syria talks in Russia end, ignore key opposition demands
Kinda Makieh, Maria Tsvetkova

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - A Syrian peace conference in Russia ended on Tuesday with a statement calling for democratic elections, but ignoring key opposition demands after a day marred by squabbles and heckling of the Russian foreign minister.

The participants also agreed to set up a committee to rewrite the Syrian constitution at the conference, which much of the opposition said aimed to serve the interests of President Bashar al-Assad and his close ally, Moscow.

A final statement said Syrians must decide their future through elections, but did not say whether Syrian refugees would be allowed to take part, something sought by Assad’s opponents and Western states. Syrians had the “exclusive right” to pick their political system free of foreign intervention, it added.

It also urged the preservation of security forces without calling for their reform, another demand of the opposition.

“This conference is tailor-made for Assad and his terrorist regime,” said Mustafa Sejari, a senior official in a Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group that operates in northern Syria. “The Sochi statement does not concern us and is not even a subject of discussion.”

Russia hosted what it called a Syrian Congress of National Dialogue in the Black Sea resort of Sochi. After helping turn the tide of the war in Syria in Assad’s favor, Moscow has cast itself as a Middle East peace broker.

The event was boycotted, however, by the leadership of the Syrian opposition, while powers such as the United States, Britain and France stayed away because of what they said was the Syrian government’s refusal to properly engage.

Western countries support a separate United Nations-mediated peace process, which has so far failed to yield progress toward ending a war that is entering its eighth year. The latest round of those talks took place last week in Vienna.

“We don’t need a new process, we don’t need any competitive process,” U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, who attended the Sochi conference, told reporters in New York by phone on Monday.

He said the constitutional committee agreed in Sochi “will become a reality in Geneva,” where most of the U.N.-led Syria peace talks have been held. De Mistura also said he would decide the criteria for committee members and select about 50 people - from government, opposition and independent groups.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov helped open the Sochi conference on Tuesday by reading out a statement from President Vladimir Putin saying the conditions were ripe for Syria to turn “a tragic page” in its history.

But some delegates stood up and began heckling him, accusing Moscow of killing civilians in Syria with its air strikes.

The incident was broadcast on Russian state TV where two security guards were shown approaching one man in the audience indicating that he should sit down.

Other delegates shouted out their support for Russia.

FLAG ROW

In a further setback, one group of delegates, which included members of the armed opposition who had flown in from Turkey, refused to leave Sochi airport until Syrian government flags and emblems - which they said were offensive - had been removed.

Ahmed Tomah, the head of the delegation, said his group had boycotted the congress and would fly back to Turkey because of the flag row and what he called broken promises to end the bombardment of civilians.

“We were surprised that none of the promises that were given had been kept, the ferocious bombing of civilians had not stopped. Nor were the flags and banners of the regime removed,” he said in a video recorded at the airport.

Artyom Kozhin, a senior diplomat at the Russian Foreign Ministry, acknowledged there had been some complications.

“Some problems have arisen with a group of the armed opposition that has come from Turkey which has made its participation dependent on additional demands,” he wrote on social media.

Lavrov had spoken by phone twice to his Turkish counterpart and been told that the problem would be resolved, said Kozhin.

Turkish and Iranian government delegations also attended the congress.

Vitaly Naumkin, a Russian expert on the Middle East who serves as an adviser to de Mistura, told reporters the problems encountered by organizers had not tarnished the event.

“Nothing awful happened,” said Naumkin. “Nobody is fighting anyone else. Nobody is killing anyone. These were standard working moments.”

Additional reporting by Tom Perry and Dahlia Nehme in Beirut, Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Tom Miles in Geneva, Michelle Nichols at the United Nations and Suleiman Al-Khalidi in Amman; writing by Andrew Osborn; editing by Peter Graff, Gareth Jones and G Crosse

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

2018-உள்ளூர் சபைத் தேர்தல்களைப் புறக்கணிப்போம்!


Monday, 29 January 2018

Will China BRI Cause East West Rupture in EU?

29.01.2018 Author: F. William Engdahl
Will China BRI Cause East West Rupture in EU?

On 27 November Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, already at odds with the unelected bureaucrats of the European Union over his insistence on the right to decide whether Brussels or national elected governments shall be allowed to become citizens in Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, waved another red flag, this potentially a future game-changer for the EU as it exists today. Orbanhosted the 6th annual meeting of the China- Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) “16+1” summit in Budapest with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The event got barely a mention in western mainstream media despite the fact that it may have set the seeds for a divide within the EU within the coming months between a French-German-dominated federal EU run by Brussels and a more free, nation-based EU on the model of Hungary, Austria, Poland, the Czech republic and other east members of the EU.



In his opening keynote speech, Hungary’s Viktor Orban noted that Europe’s most competitive investment environment has come into being in Central and Eastern Europe. Noting that not too long ago Asia depended on the west for investment in modernization, that today, “the star of the East is now in the ascendant”, and we live in an era marked by the rise of Asia – and within it China. “We are at the beginning of a period in which the further development of Europe will be dependent on the technological and financial involvement of the East.”

Orban stressed the summit was not against the EU. He stressed that the “16+1” format not only serves the best interests of China and the sixteen Central and Eastern European countries, but also the whole of Europe and the European Union. He then announced Hungary would begin public procurement tender for upgrading the Budapest–Belgrade railway line – including funding from China.The cost of the project is 2.4billion Euros, with 85% to be provided by Export-Import Bank of China. The project is the first European project involving an EU member, Hungary, a non-EU member Serbia and China. It will create a major modern freight route to Western Europe through Central Europe. Strangely enough this is not being greeted with joy in Brussels, rather the opposite.

The China-CEEC or 16+1 annual summit was launched in 2012 before formal inauguration of the Belt, Road Initiative by China in late 2013. Until this year it had little to present in terms of results. It served as a vehicle for China and the countries of Central and East Europe, the newest EU member states as well as applicant non-members to exchange information but little concrete. The BRI developments over the past year are beginning to radically change that.

In his speech to the summit Prime Minister Li Keqiang proposed more rail lines be launched by China Railway Express and more direct flights between China and Europe. He declared that China would like to set up a logistic center in the CEE region, likely in Hungary, a main China investment focus to date. He also announced the establishment of China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association and the second phase of China-CEEC Investment Cooperation Fund. The China Development Bank will provide funds equivalent to 2 billion euros ($2.4 billion) through development-oriented loans to the China-CEEC Inter-Bank Association, which was officially established at the summit, Li said. And he announced that the second phase of the China-Central and Eastern Europe Investment Cooperation Fund, totaling $1 billion, will be mainly spent in the 16 European countries. Li noted the strong growth of agriculture imports from the region to China, rising by 14% this year. Then he called for a feasibility study on extending to Austria a railway line linking the Greek port of Piraeus with Budapest.

Since 2012 China investment in the 16 countries rose by 300% from $3 billion to over 9 billion US dollars.

One-on-one economic diplomacy

The focus on the countries of Eastern and Central Europe by Beijing is a result of the ice-cold response to date of the EU in Brussels and especially by the German and French governments. For them China’s Belt, Road Initiative, sometimes called the New Silk Road, is a threat to their domination of the EU. The recent railroad by the decision of the German Agriculture Minister, to grant a new 5-year approval for the toxic glyphosate against the wishes of the majority of EU states is but an example of the heavy-handed Brussels methods, becoming more rigid as the resistance against heavy-handed Brussels refugee policies and countless other issues grows.

The 16 countries in the China-CEC group after the latest meeting all have formally signed on to participate in the China BRI on a one-be-one basis. The countries include Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia, Albania and Bulgaria.

Greece, not formally a member of the 16+1 is already a major infrastructure focus of Chinese state investment in the EU. While Brussels and especially Germany offer Greece only more savage austerity demands since the Greek crisis in 2010, China offers investment. China has invested more than $500 million in the privatized Greek Port of Piraeus using the state shipping group, COSCO, turning it into the busiest Mediterranean port today. China has been operator of the Piraeus Port since 2008 and this April bought 67% ownership for $8 billion to the Greek government including the $500 million for modernization. The China Piraeus Port will serve as the gateway for Chinese seaborne freight into the EU, China’s largest trade partner. Now with the agreement by Hungary to complete the Belgrade-Budapest rail linkthe trade flows could become major for both China and EU countries of the CEE.

Greece took part in the founding meeting in May, 2017 of the Belt, Road Initiative and signed major economic agreements with Beijing.

EU Begins Counter-offensive

Rather that greet the Chinese investment in the ailing economies of Eastern and Central Europe, the Brussels EU Commission, dominated by Germany, is preparing to pass strict new investment rules. In September EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, one who owes his job to Germany’s Angela Merkel, announced a proposal for a new EU rule to centrally control foreign investments into EU member states, another attempt to rob what little remains of member national sovereignty over their national economic development. The Juncker proposal, titled “Investment Screening”, if passed by member states, would require special scrutiny and approval from Brussels when a foreign state-owned enterprise wants to invest in EU ports, energy infrastructure or defense industries. Germany, France and Italy immediately praised the Juncker proposal. Here we see the fault lines that will only become more obvious as EU economic strains grow in coming months.

Austria could play a determining role in such a shift. In October the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) won a victory making Sebastian Kurz prospective Chancellor in a coalition with the euro-skeptic anti-refugee Freedom Party (FPÖ). Hungary’s Orban has welcomed Kurzas a “close ally.” For the Austrian economy, to orient towards the neighboring countries of Eastern Europe, especially Hungary now that the two are closer on resisting forced refugee policies and other heavy-handed moves of Brussels, could initiate a major tectonic shift in the political weight inside the EU.

For Austria the cooperation with China’s Belt, Road Initiative makes huge sense.  For Austria, engagement with China and the BRI is clear given the country’s strong economic relations with Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. The countries of CEEC have major infrastructure deficits and Austrian industry could play a constructive partner role to the Chinese investment, what the Chinese like to call win-win. Clearly the present direction of the German-French-domination of the EU cannot continue as it has. The fault lines are too great.

The Danish Saxo Bank head of macro-analysis, Christopher Dembikin a recent assessment of these growing fault lines predicts “The divide between old core EU members and the more sceptical and newer members of the bloc will widen to an impassable chasm in 2018 and will shift the center of gravity from the Franco-German axis to Visegrad-and-friends (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia-w.e.).”

Dembik suggests that the French Macron “EU reform” plans to integrate further and create a joint treasury and a common defense budget, more top-down rule, will push the countries of the CEEC, and likely Austria and also Italy to create a new blocking minority coalition of 13 EU countries to form a blocking minority at the European Council within the EU states that will push the EU to abandon the disruptive German refugee policies and austerity in favor of economic stimulus. That indeed would be a refreshing change for millions of Europeans. An outrageous prediction?Perhaps not so unlikely at present.

F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

https://journal-neo.org/2018/01/29/will-china-bri-cause-east-west-rupture-in-eu/

No political solution for Tamil grievances in sight – Ananthy



Q: You have on many occasions said that even the international community had let the affected people down. However, initially you were one of those who claimed that only the International Community could solve such humanitarian issues. Why have you taken a completely opposite stand now?

A: All the affected people including me expected the UN and the International Community to find a suitable solution to our humanitarian issues. We believed that the Human Rights Commissioner will somehow help us to find a suitable solution for our grievances. However, his recent stand and statements were completely different to the promises he previously gave. Therefore, I now feel the International Community has taken a different stand over humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka. I am of the view that further expectations will not result in any positive result.

Ananthi Sasitharan addresses OHCHR meeting with NGOs
No political solution for Tamil grievances in sight – Ananthy Sasitharan
Published by : CT WEB

BY Mirudhula Thambiah

Northern Minister of Women Affairs, Ananthy Sasitharan said the International Community had taken a different stance over humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka, thus letting down the war-affected people.

"We were under the impression that United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein, would somehow help us to find a solution to our grievances. However, his recent stand and statements were in total contrast to the promises he previously made. I am of the view that further expectations will not result in anything fruitful," she said in an interview with Ceylon Today.

Following are excerpts

It has been more than 300 days since relatives of missing persons began the protest urging a solution to find their loved ones. You have initially engaged in such protests as your husband was one of them. How do you view the current situation in this regard?

A: One of the primary reasons for my political entry is that more than 1,000 persons including my husband had gone missing during and in the post war period; a lasting solution is a much-needed concern.

From provincial to international level, we have addressed grievances of missing persons and their families. However, the Government and the International Community have ignored the claims of relatives of missing persons who had continuously protested urging to find the whereabouts of their loved ones.

International agencies that meet the relatives of missing persons, listen to their stories as if it is a new story, which they have never heard before. These are only moves and agendas to safeguard the Lankan Government.

The TNA hierarchy had failed to sincerely look at the issue of missing persons. From the day members of the LTTE surrendered during the end of the war to date, the TNA has failed to find a lasting solution even after the change in government; they have failed to take up the issue in a proper manner to the Government. The Government will never solve this issue. The Government feels they are not answerable as long as they have the support of the TNA. Even at international level, it seems the Government is now eased from the pressure and shows innocence.

Therefore, there seems to be no solution to the problem of missing persons. The affected have been neglected.

You have on many occasions said that even the international community had let the affected people down. However, initially you were one of those who claimed that only the International Community could solve such humanitarian issues. Why have you taken a completely opposite stand now?

A: All the affected people including me expected the UN and the International Community to find a suitable solution to our humanitarian issues. We believed that the Human Rights Commissioner will somehow help us to find a suitable solution for our grievances. However, his recent stand and statements were completely different to the promises he previously gave. Therefore, I now feel the International Community has taken a different stand over humanitarian issues in Sri Lanka. I am of the view that further expectations will not result in any positive result.

You filed a writ of Habeas Corpus seeking the whereabouts of your husband Sasitharan alias Ezhilan. What exactly is the current situation of this legal process?

A: We filed a writ application at the Vavuniya High Court. The proceedings were changed to Mullaitivu since we surrendered in that area. Only after the change in Government that this case was even taken up for hearing.

Currently, the Mullaitivu Courts has recorded evidence from all the witnesses , thus the case has been reverted to the Vavuniya High Court for the verdict to be delivered.

Surrendering of LTTE cadres soon after the end of the war is not just between the LTTE and the Government. Countries such as Norway and Japan were connected to the surrender. Recently, Tamil National People's Front Leader, Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam who was directly connected to the surrender has given a clear description of the situation that prevailed at that time.

Recently, former Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that they won the war with the help of India. Therefore, India is also aware of the surrender of LTTE cadres at the end of the war.

We did not secretly surrender. We surrendered in the presence of many people. Around 1,000 of them surrendered on the promises made by the security forces that they will be released on a General Amnesty.

In April 2017, an Army Commander while giving submissions in Courts, stated that he had details of those who surrendered and were under his custody.

Later he submitted that those details were taken from the Ministry of Rehabilitation. This list included 12,000 LTTE cadres who were released after rehabilitation. Anyhow, it should be noted at this juncture that being in one's custody was different from the rehabilitation process.

This Commander was of the view that this particular list obtained from the Ministry of Rehabilitation did not include Ezhilan's name.

If his name was there in that list, there was no need to file a Habeas Corpus Writ seeking the whereabouts of Ezhilan. There are contradictions in this issue. There are only 21 families that have filed legal action and the rest have isolated themselves from such incidents.

It is unacceptable to say that the rest refrained from seeking legal assistance due to threats. These 21 families have sought legal action and they too are subject to threats.

At this juncture it is a must that I find the whereabouts of my husband. Similarly, the rest who went missing also need justice.

Therefore, refraining from seeking action will not solve this issue. We all must unite in this struggle to find our loved ones.

This struggle will not end with me but my children will continue in this effort.

Although you were a member of the TNA, you have been criticizing the TNA. Are you still a member of the TNA?

A: When I decided to contest the provincial elections, I did not belong to any political party. Later I officially joined the Illankai Thamil Arasai Katchi (ITAK). I won the provincial elections after obtaining a ticket from ITAK.

I was affected in the struggle and this is the only reason I stepped into politics. However, I am not just a politician. My intention is not only politics, I want to sincerely support my people. I gave certain promises to my people in the Election Manifesto. I can only function according to these promises.

I come from a deprived background. During the change in government, I refused to support President Maithripala Sirisena or former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. When my husband surrendered to the security forces, former President Rajapaksa left the country and President Sirisena took over as Defence Minister. Therefore, I decided I will not support either of them. Apart from being a member of ITAK, I could not act against my conscience. There was no other member within the same party who was affected like me; therefore, I began to fight for my rights. The ITAK hierarchy took disciplinary action against me. They took a decision to remove me from the post of Secretary to the Women's Wing , but I remained as a member of ITAK. For three years I was told that I could not be the Secretary to the Women's Wing of ITAK.

TNA spokesman Sumanthiran is making many unacceptable and disappointing statements. According to my knowledge, he however is making these statements without the approval of the others in the party. These statements are all his own. If they took disciplinary action against me, they should also take disciplinary action against Sumanthiran for making these statements.

I have supported Chief Minister Wigneswaran, in the process of obtaining a political solution. He understood the grievances of our people and his stand on the political solution is agreeable.

I am still a member of ITAK. I will however not function against my conscience. ITAK has not invited me for any party event, after I was served with disciplinary action. I am quite clear where I stand.

Do you predict any changes in the vote base at the upcoming Local Government elections?

A: When we came into politics in the Provincial Council elections in 2013, people believed in us and extended their fullest support to the TNA. However, the situation was different then and after the change in government, the TNA chose a different path. People have realized this change.

Recently fisticuffs were exchanged between ITAK members during nominations. This caused disappointment among the people.

Therefore, a comparatively lower percentage in voting in the North for the TNA could be expected.

The recent TNA stand has made the people to conclude that they are similar to the Eelam People's Democratic Party. Both parties are of the same stance.

It is said that the conservative culture in Northern Society had prevented educated Tamil women from entering politics even after the 25 per cent quota was implemented with electoral reform. How do you assess this situation?

A: Women in the North are reasonably well-educated and knowledgeable, however the culture in the society has definitely held them back from entering the political arena.

I always encouraged women in the North to enter politics. I have been taking my struggle forward, being the only woman representative in the Provincial Council, where it is dominated by men.

Although the 25 per cent quota is implemented, due to cultural barriers many women in the North who are knowledgeable and eligible have stood away from entering politics and this is quite a sad development.

Also I would like to point out that political parties in the North have included women who were unsuitable for nominations, so that they could be puppets of the dominating males.

Tell us the projects your Ministry has undertaken to support war-affected women?

A: Our Ministry does not have enough funds to support all the affected women. But I have taken up personal and unofficial initiatives to support them. They have benefitted from these initiatives. We lack the support of the central government in developing the projects at provincial level.

We lack cadres in the Ministry to take our projects to grassroot level. I have written to the central government to deal with this issue.

What steps has the Provincial Ministry of Women's Affairs taken to curb sexual violence against women in northern society?

A: We have personally attended to cases by providing legal assistance and certain cases are directed by us to the Police to take further action.

We want to initiate steps to avoid sexual violence-related incidents. However, we also have a special unit which treats and provides support to victims of sexual violence.

In the current context, how do you view the contribution of the TNA to find a political solution?

A: During my four-year political involvement, I have realized that the Tamil people will not get a political solution. When there is no initiative to ensure accountability for human rights violation, it is quite clear that we will not get a political solution.

Email: che.myhero@gmail.com

The strategy behind Operation Olive Branch

NEWS TURKEY
The strategy behind Operation Olive Branch
ECE GOKSEDEF
After US attempts to mediate, Russia deployed troops to the area to stop an operation on the YPG in Afrin last year. On January 20, Turkey started the operation. Here is the importance of their strategy.
Operation Olive Branch will continue "until the last terrorist is neutralized," said Turkey’s army chief Hulusi Akar (AA)

Afrin, in northwest Syria bordering Turkey, used to be a city with a population of 80,000. Taking advantage of the chaos caused by the civil war in Syria, the YPG took control of it in 2012. During the years of civil war, since there are no clashes in Afrin, its population increased up to 300,000. And finally, after the evacuation of Aleppo in December 2016, people fled to Afrin, increasing the population to around 750,000. Around 60 percent is Arabs, five percent on the Turkish border in the northwest of the city is Turkmen, and the rest are Kurds. Hundreds of its original residents, who could flee the YPG after 2012, are in Turkey.

Afrin is located between two strategic Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)-held areas: Azaz and Idlib. The two FSA commanders who talked to TRT World, tell of the geographical importance of Afrin in these words: We need to connect two opposition areas to support each other. But using the road in Turkey along the border from Kilis to Reyhanlı takes five hours. If we drive directly from Azaz to Idlib through Tel Rifat, it would only take less than two hours.

That makes the Tel Rifat front of upmost importance to the operation.

Here is the information TRT World has obtained from the opposition commanders on the field:


1- Azaz, Tel Rifat and Minagh Airport in the east

In total, around 10,000 FSA fighters are ready for the Afrin operation, some already actively taking part. More troops are being deployed to Azaz from Idlib. The troops in the Euphrates Shield area are not deployed for the Afrin operation, as they are mostly on patrol for any attacks from the YPG-held Manbij.

One of the first air bombardments by Turkish fighter jets have been conducted on this area. Also, FSA troops are ready to move ahead to Afrin on the ground.

The area’s strategic importance comes from its location, if the FSA will take control of the area, that will prevent the YPG from getting reinforcements from regime-held territories. And also, it will connect the Turkish army’s monitoring points in northern Idlib in the Euphrates Shield area.

On the first day of the operation, Russian troops in Afrin relocated to Tel Ajar, a town in northwestern Tel Rifat. The regime’s military training camp in Qafrjannah was also moved in Tel Ajar.

On Wednesday, when the clashes intensified in Tel Rifat, most of the Russian troops in Tel Ajar withdrew to the regime-held areas in the south, Nubl and Zahraa.

Nubl and Zahraa are two Shia villages, and Iranian-backed Shia militias are also on the ground.

The reinforcements coming from the YPG-held Manbij and Kobane are being taken to Afrin via those two villages. The regime supports the reinforcements.

2-Dar Jammal, south of Afrin

In the south, four Turkish army monitoring points were set up in Idlib, which prevents any YPG moves. There is no active fighting in this area. Turkish troops retaliate against the YPG’s shelling from time to time.

From Tel Rifat to Dar Jammal, there are 14 Arab villages, on which Turkey has been planning an operation against the YPG for more than a year.

Four paths going to Afrin 

1- Barsaya Mountain, Sharran, Qatmah, Qafrjannah in the northeast

North of Azaz, along the Turkish border, lies the Barsaya mountain. It has been the base for the YPG’s armories and ammunition, and Turkish fighter jets destroyed most of it in the first couple of days. The FSA, on the other hand, has been shelling the area since last year.

It’s now an active frontline. Difficult to pass through, the mountain is the first challenge for the FSA. From the Barsaya Mountain up to Qafrjannah, its a hilly area where the largest number of YPG militants are based, and is also the path to Afrin.

After Qafrjannah, the next stop is Afrin city’s countryside.

2- Bulbul, Qarababa on the north

The first bombardment by Turkish fighter jets started in the Bulbul area. Starting from the border up to the mountains, most of the villages have been taken by the FSA. After those villages, there are mountains, which stand in front of the way to Afrin in the south. The mountainous area sees active fighting now.

3- Rajo, Seikh Haddad in the west

Rajo is also a mountainous area, where the YPG is based on the exit points of the straits. Up to the mountainous area, the FSA now controls 10 km of Raco. From Rajo to Seikh Haddad, Turkish troops and FSA fighters are waiting for the mines to be cleared.

4- Jandaris in the southwest

The YPG positions in Jandaris have been heavily bombarded by Turkish fighter jets, since the start of the operation. The plains of Jandaris continue with hills and straits towards Afrin. That’s why the FSA on the ground is supported by intensified air operations.

After the defeat of Daesh, YPG’s objective revealed

Weeks after the fight against Daesh in Syria was mostly over, Russia called on all parties to gather in Sochi to talk about the future of Syria, including the YPG. Turkey harshly opposed this.

And then the US plans on permanent support for the YPG were revealed, despite their promises that co-operation with the YPG would be only until Daesh was defeated. On January 13, the US-led coalition declared that they were creating a new "border defence force" again, including the YPG.

The same day, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the signal for the country’s plans to start an operation in YPG-held Afrin, Syria’s border town with Turkey at its north.

And the air operation started a week later from three different points. The next day, ground troops started their move towards Afrin.

Afrin operation were discussed since 2016

Turkey first deployed its troops to its border with Syria near Afrin in July 2017. The Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA), on the other hand, was ready in the east.

Back then, the plan was to take control of Tel Rifat and Minagh Airport from the YPG, to cut their way to another YPG-held territory in the east, and to connect the opposition groups in the north and in Idlib. Before the talks come up with a solution, Hayat Tahrir al Sham, an al Qaeda-affiliated group, took control of most of Idlib, and plans changed. In Astana, talks led by Russia, Turkey and Iran, lend to the decision to set up military monitoring points in Idlib, before starting the operation.

Russia stops another possible operation in September

Two months later, the operation on Afrin was still on the table. And on September 4, Russia deployed troops and Syrian regime forces to east Afrin, to prevent clashes by creating a buffer zone between Turkish-backed opposition forces and the YPG.

According to the Moscow-based news website Sputnik, in a briefing to reporters, Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces, Commander Sergei Rudskoy said, “In order to prevent provocations and possible clashes between detachments of Free Syrian Army formations in the north of Syria and the Kurdish militia [YPG] with the assistance of the Russian reconciliation center, a de-confliction zone has been established in the Tel Rifat area.”

The situation on the ground back in July, and the practical buffer zones by Russia in Syria.



The US’ mediation efforts

Turkey’s plans for Tel Rifat and Minagh Airport did not only begin last July. At the end of 2016, Turkey was getting ready for an operation in the area, for the FSA to take over 14 Arab villages there. 150,000 Syrian refugees who took shelter in the camps in Azaz were also set to be sent to the area after the operation.

But the US took a mediation role between the FSA and the YPG, in a bid to stop Turkey’s possible operation against its ally. According to Mustafa Sajari, an opposition representative who holds talks with the US, the YPG promised to leave those villages and Tel Rifat to the FSA after weeks of negotiations. A promise that was never kept.



The YPG also didn’t keep its promise to leave Manbij, a city it took control of with the support of the US in August 2016. The same month, Turkey started its first military operation in Syria, Euphrates Shield, to defeat Daesh from its borders and also to prevent the creation of any corridor between YPG-held Manbij and Afrin.

The US has never cut its support for the YPG, in an excuse of using them in the fight against Daesh, which led the YPG to claim a quarter of Syria which was once controlled by Daesh.

Turkey’s reaction to the partnership is because of the YPG’s affiliation with the PKK, a designated terror group by Turkey, the US and the EU, and which has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 30 years.


Source: TRT World