March 2, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Thousands of Migrants Mass at Turkish-Greek Border - Costas Kantouris (AP-Fox News)
    The UN said Sunday that at least 13,000 people were massed on Turkey's land border with Greece, after Turkey officially declared its western border open to migrants heading to the EU.
    Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades throughout Saturday to prevent repeated attempts by a crowd of people massed at the border crossing in Kastanies to cross, and fought a cat-and-mouse game with groups cutting holes in a border fence along the border to crawl through.
    Stavros Zamalides, president of the local community in Kastanies, said, "Turkish soldiers with cutters in their hands were cutting the wires of the fence to lead the illegal migrants" into crossing the border.
    Under a 6 billion euro deal in 2016, Turkey agreed to stem the tide of refugees to Europe in return for financial aid after more than a million people entered Europe in 2015.
    Turkish President Erdogan has frequently threatened to "open the gates" and allow refugees and migrants to head to Europe unless more international support was provided.
    See also Photos: 30,000 Migrants Mass on Turkish Borders with Greece and Bulgaria - David G. Rose (Daily Mail-UK)
    See also Greece Deploys Troops at Border as Turkey Opens Gates for Migrants - Matina Stevis-Gridneff (New York Times)
    Greece deployed major military forces to the border after Turkey allowed migrants to pass through to the EU over the weekend.
    Thousands of migrants languishing in Turkey were on the move. Many dropped everything the moment they heard the border was opening.
    Hundreds of people crossed the Turkish border, either over farmland or the Evros River. Nearly 500 others arrived by boat on the Greek islands near Turkey.
    On the Turkish side, smugglers were flocking to offer rides, boats and other services.

Top Iranian Official Dies of Coronavirus (Jerusalem Post)
    Seyed Mohammad Mir-Mohammadi, 71, a member of Iran's Expediency Discernment Council that advises Iran's Supreme Leader, died on Monday from coronavirus, Sputnik News reported.
    Several other officials, including a vice minister, deputy health minister, and five lawmakers have tested positive for coronavirus.

Gaza Rocket Fired toward Israel, Falls Short of Border - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a rocket toward Israel on Sunday night, which fell short and landed inside the Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir America: We Will Conquer Rome and Liberate India and Spain (MEMRI-TV)
    Taiseer Hussein, a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir America, told a conference in Glendale Heights, Illinois, on Jan. 19, 2020, that Allah promised to the Islamic nation that it will inherit the Earth in its entirety.
    He said that the Islamic nation will re-establish the Caliphate, conquer Rome, and liberate Palestine, Kashmir, India, and Spain, which he said is also occupied Islamic land.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. and Taliban Sign Afghanistan Peace Agreement - Jennifer Hansler
    The U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement Saturday in Doha, Qatar, which sets in motion the potential of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, paving the way to ending America's longest-fought war. The agreement was signed by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo witnessed the signing of the "Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan." The agreement lays out a 14-month timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. and allied forces and private security contractors, with an initial drawdown to 8,600 U.S. troops within 135 days. (CNN)
  • Turkey Declares Major Offensive Against Syrian Government - Carlotta Gall
    Turkey's Defense Minister Hulusi Akar on Sunday announced a major counteroffensive against the Syrian government, as President Assad's forces closed in on retaking Syria's last rebel-held territory. The offensive has driven nearly a million residents toward the border with Turkey.
        Jens Stoltenburg, the NATO secretary general, said Friday that NATO was providing Turkey with airborne radar surveillance over Syria. Turkey has asked the U.S. to provide Patriot missiles to help it against Russian and Syrian air power, but Washington is demanding that Turkey first make inoperable the Russian S-400 missile defense system that it acquired last year. (New York Times)
  • Turkey Downs 3 Syrian Jets, Hits Air Bases in Northwestern Syria
    Two Assad regime Su-24 jets were downed in a dogfight with Turkish planes over Syria's Idlib province, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Sunday. One more regime fighter jet was downed by Turkey later on Sunday. According to new footage shared by Turkey's Defense Ministry, Syrian tanks and armored personnel carriers were destroyed and regime soldiers were killed in the Saraqib district and other nearby regions. (Daily Sabah-Turkey)
        See also Turkish Strikes Destroy Syrian Military Airport in Aleppo (Anadolu-Daily Sabah-Turkey)
        See also Turkish Drones Kill 19 Syrian Soldiers
    The Syrian Observatory documented the killing of 19 Syrian regime soldiers in attacks carried out by Turkish drones in Idlib province on Sunday. This brings the death toll of regime forces to 93 in less than 72 hours. The Syrian Observatory also documented the killing of ten Lebanese Hizbullah members in Idlib and four others of militias affiliated with Hizbullah, including an officer in Iran's Revolutionary Guard. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Finance Minister: Israel Coordinating with PA to Contain Coronavirus Outbreak - Eytan Halon
    Israeli authorities are working closely with their counterparts in the Palestinian Authority to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said on Sunday. "We are in contact with [the PA] because the virus has no borders, and doesn't know to distinguish between ethnic groups, religions or nations." Kahlon said he had spoken directly to PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Shi'ite Azerbaijan's Historic Speech at AIPAC - Benjamin Weinthal
    On Sunday, Samir Sharifov, the Azerbaijani finance minister, addressed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's annual policy conference. The minister of the majority Shi'ite country told AIPAC: "Cooperation with Israel is not limited to oil supply, we are interested in widening cooperation in defense and transfer of technology."
        Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan's ambassador to the U.S., told the Jerusalem Post that there is "no reason to hide it [relations with Israel]. Our relationships are always transparent and positive and based on mutual interests. They are never against anybody else." Azerbaijan borders Turkey, Russia and Iran. For Suleymanov, "Radicalsim begins from anti-Semitism because what is bad for the Jews will spread to others. Azerbaijan is proud that we have never had any anti-Semitism in our history."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Turkey's Darkest Night in Syria - Metin Gurcan
    On Feb. 27, a Turkish mechanized infantry battalion, comprised of about 400 soldiers, became the target of an airstrike on a road in southern Idlib. According to local sources, in a coordinated action, two Syrian Su-22 fighter jets forced the convoy to stop, with the soldiers taking shelter in several roadside buildings. This was followed by two Russian Sukhoi Su-34s that bombed the buildings, with two collapsing in the attack, leaving the Turkish soldiers under the rubble.
        Ankara's official death toll stood at 33, with 60 others wounded, but the actual death toll may be 50-55. After the attack, Moscow rejected Ankara's request to open Idlib air space to Turkish helicopters to airlift the casualties. As a result, the dead and the wounded were transported by road to Reyhanli, a Turkish border town 70 km. (43 miles) away.
        According to Russian media, on Feb. 27, Russian aircraft flying over southern Idlib became the target of intensive fire from man-portable air-defense systems, known as MANPADS, from Turkish military outposts in the area. Russian sources claim that more than 15 MANPADS attacks, carried out directly by Turkish troops, targeted Russian and Syrian jets. (Al-Monitor)
  • Soleimani Confirmed that Israel Didn't Kidnap Iranian Diplomats in Lebanon - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    For decades Iran has claimed that Israel has been holding four of its diplomats in captivity. Before he died in January, Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani confirmed to an Iranian journalist that this is a lie.
        On July 5, 1982, Seyyed Mohsen Mousavi, Iran's official representative in Beirut; Col. Ahmad Motevasseliyan, the head of the Iranian expeditionary force in Lebanon; a journalist of the IRNA news agency and an Iranian embassy driver were traveling from the Revolutionary Guards headquarters in Zabadani, Syria, to Beirut when they were seized at a roadblock north of Beirut by the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia of the Phalange Party, and disappeared. Mansour Koochak Mohseni, Motevasseliyan's deputy, testified that in response, 70 Lebanese Christians belonging to the Phalange were kidnapped and brought to Zabadani.
        In the following decades, Iranian officials have ignored all disclosures of the ultimate fate of the four, including testimony by Lebanese Forces members who were involved in their kidnapping and killing. Instead it has continued to assert that Israel is holding them in a secret prison. Hamid Daudabadi, an Iranian journalist close to the Revolutionary Guards who has been probing the kidnapping for more than 25 years, said Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani confirmed to him earlier this year that, just a few hours after the kidnapping, the four were no longer alive, and that the claim that the four are being held by Israel was baseless. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (American Interest)