November Turkey Talk — Mideast Mayhem

It’s November, so we should be talking about turkey, right? While the bird which will grace your Thanksgiving table is certainly a timely topic, another timely topic is the country of Turkey. Mayhem abounds in that area of the world, and we can be thankful we aren’t there. And, due to a recent decision of our Commander in Chief, a thousand or so U.S. troops aren’t there either. Let’s talk Turkey about this news.

Back on October 6th, President Trump made an abrupt and controversial announcement that U.S. troops were being pulled from northern Syrian which borders Turkey. At the time, approximately one thousand American military members were based there. This figure was down from the 2,000 troops with boots on the ground in Syria the previous year. Woo hoo! Less troops in harm’s way in this dangerous area of the world.

A troop reduction in Syria should have come as no surprise to anyone. Why Trump campaigned for the presidency on a promise to end U.S. participation in wars such as in Syria. After becoming president, he first announced his intention to withdraw troops from Syria in 2018. So what’s the fuss? I mean, he did what he said, right? But some were taken aback that Trump decided to remove the troops pronto. His exit strategy was to exit. Period. Right then.

What was Trump’s rationale for the troop withdrawal? He wants to get the U.S. “out of these ridiculous endless wars.” The troops were in northern Syria in the first place because of an “age-old conflict” between Turkey and the Kurds, many of whom are located in northern Syria. The president noted that America is “not a policing agent.”

Turkey and Syria are neighbors; they share a border which is approximately 511 miles long. Nevertheless, their relations are anything but neighborly. Populating northern Syria along the Turkish border are Syrian Kurds who number around 1.7 million. Why doesn’t Turkey like its southern neighbor? Do the Kurds play their music too loud? Nope. Turkey considers the Kurds to be terrorists who must be eliminated. And by eliminated, I mean killed.

And the Kurds aren’t just living in northern Syria. They make up about 20% of the population in Turkey. The Kurds in Turkey have been stirring up trouble in their country an attempt to establish their own state. In fact, the Kurds, who per CIA estimates number between 25 and 40 million, are the world’s largest ethnic group without its own state.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (“PKK”) has been fighting for autonomy in eastern Turkey for 30 years. And by fighting, I mean carrying out violent acts such as bombings and assaults; it has a long history of conducting terrorist attacks. Moreover, the U.S. has formally designated PKK as a foreign terrorist organization. So, you can see why Turkey isn’t really keen on the Kurds in its own country.

But what beef does Turkey have with the Kurds living in northern Syria? They didn’t carry out any violent acts in Turkey. Well, Turkey views the Kurdish militia that dominates the U.S. backed Syrian Democratic Forces (“SDF”) as being aligned with the Turkish Kurds’ terrorist group PKK. The Syrian branch of the PKK is YPG. Are you A-OK in grasping this background? .

Let’s recap. Turkey doesn’t like the Kurds. It doesn’t like the Kurds in their country, the PKK, because the group engages in terrorist acts. Turkey doesn’t like the Kurds in northern Syria because Turkey thinks they are in cahoots with the Turkish terrorist group PKK. The Turkish Kurds don’t like the Turkish government because it quells their separatist movement. Got it? Now, how does the U.S. fit into all this? Well, its like many relationships. It’s complicated.

The U.S. teamed up with the Kurds in Syria to fight ISIS. In this context the U.S. armed YPG, the Syrian branch of Turkey’s PKK. Kurdish-run detention centers in Syria hold thousands of captured IS fighters and their families. According to some reports, about 11,000 detained ISIS terrorists are being guarded by the Kurds. The bottom line is the U.S. was allied with the Kurds against ISIS. But the Kurds don’t get along with Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S. not to mention an area of strategic significance to our country. What’s a world power to do?

Well, President Trump decided not to risk a war with Turkey over the Kurds, so he ordered U.S. troops to high tail it out of Syria. This executive decision led to intense bipartisan criticism. (I mean, does anything he does escape criticism? But I digress.) President Trump was vilified for abandoning our Syrian Kurdish allies; naysayers felt the U.S. owed a huge debt to the Kurds for helping us contain ISIS.  Trump responded that the U.S. may have left Syria, but it was not abandoning the Kurds.

Turkey, on the other hand, was delighted when the U.S. troops pulled out of Syria. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered an assault on the Syrian Kurds before the dust had settled from the U.S. troops’ departure. The aim of this military operation was to push Kurdish militants back from Turkey’s southern border and deeper into Syrian territory.  Can’t you just hear the Turkish commanders urging their troops, “Push ’em back, push ’em back…?” Trump, living up to his statement that he was not abandoning the Kurds, sent Vice President Pence to Ankara to broker a five day ceasefire.

But the plot thickens. Now Russia is in the mix. The U.S. supporting the Syrian Kurds gave Turkey a reason to buddy up to Russia. Turkish President Erdogan met with Russian President Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi to discuss the situation. Hey, if you have to talk politics, you might as well do it in a relaxing and beautiful location, right? Turkey and Russia struck a deal to establish a 20 mile safe zone with no Kurdish forces along the Syrian border. Now Russian military police are patrolling the Syrian-Turkish border along with Turkish troops.

Whew! What a headache to try to understand this complex situation. It has the makings of a good political soap. Will ISIS take advantage of the U.S. troops’ departure to make a comeback? Will Turkey and the U.S. kiss and make up after the U.S. teamed up with the Kurds in northern Syria but has now physically left the area? Is Putin gloating that he’s playing footsie with a NATO ally of the U.S. and getting toehold in the Mideast? All this Turkey talk is making me thankful that all I have to do is prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving and that I don’t have to deal with Turkey trouble.


Have you been following the news on the pullout of U.S. troops from northern Syria and the aftermath thereof? Did you realize that Mideast relations were so complex? Should the U.S. be involved in what’s going on in northern Syria? Why or why not? If so, to what extent should our involvement be?








Thirty Days of Thanks — Current Events Version

You know it must be November when social media is filled with posts giving thirty reasons to be thankful. Practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to improve one’s attitude. Unfortunately, most posts I see are personal to the person posting them. Aren’t there reasons for our society as a whole to give thanks at this time of year? Of course, there are! Let’s turn to current events to see what positive things we can identify for which we can be grateful.

FUR FORBEARANCE.  Animal lovers can give thanks that our animal friends are a bit safer now. Unfortunately, there will still be a mass slaughter of certain feathered birds in connection with Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, some fur-bearing animals can breathe a sigh of relief. The Queen’s dresser (What? She can rule a kingdom but can’t dress herself?) has revealed in her new memoir that Queen Elizabeth will no longer wear fur during royal appearances. OK, she will still wear fur, but it will be faux fur. Since fashion trends are swayed by anything a royal does, it would appear that real fur is out and fake fur is where it’s at.

HEALED HERO. U.S. citizens are giving thanks that a military hero is A-OK. This particular military hero has four legs and is covered in fur. He’s Conan, the Belgian Malinois. With no regard to his personal safety, Conan dashed down a dead end tunnel after an ISIS leader clad in an explosive vest. Detonation of said vest rid the world of a terrorist but resulted in injury to Conan This brave canine officer was awarded the Medal of Honor by our Commander in Chief and invited to visit the White House. Conan, who’s a good dog, won’t complain if he’s served fast food there or even leftovers. It’s wonderful to know that man’s best friend is doing his part to serve his country.

IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME. Praise be that good sportsmanship is still a concern in today’s world. A Long Island, New York football coach, Rob Shaver of Plainedge High School, was suspended for one game after allowing his team to run up the score on an opponent. He ignored a good sportsmanship rule that was intended to prevent lopsided victories. The coach was faulted for not taking his starters out quickly enough allowing his team to notch a 61-13 victory. I’ll bet the coach did not even say “I’m sorry for your loss” to the losers.

HOPELESSLY DEVOTED TO CLOTHES. For those of us who don’t want to part with old clothes in our closet, we can be grateful that old clothes can sometimes be very valuable. Olivia Newton-John decided to clean out her closet recently and got rid of an old pair of leather pants from 1978. These famous pants, worn when she sang  “You’re The One That I Want” in “Grease,” sold for a whopping $162,000. The pants won’t be worn again or even relegated to a closet. Purchased by Spanx founder Sara Blakely, the leather pants are to be framed and hung in the Spanx headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Will this make Hotlanta  even hotter?

SNAGGED SUPPORTIVE SPOUSE. We can be thankful that women behind the scenes aren’t forgotten these days. We’ve all heard that behind every successful man is a woman. In some cases there’s  more than one. Let’s take recently departed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for example. He allegedly had four wives. No wonder he rose to such heights of terrorist power; he preferred to be out causing trouble than to be at home mediating between four wives. Turkey’s president announced that Turkish forces have captured one of these wives along with several other of the slain leader’s relatives. I feel safer that Wife #1 is in custody, but should we be nervous that Wives #2, #3, and #4 are on the loose? Can we put Conan on their trail?

THE END IS NEAR(ER). It’s almost here! The 2020 presidential election, to be held on November 3, 2020, is now less than one year away. Seems like the candidates have been running since the dawn of time, but we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. And the tunnel is getting less crowded as presidential contenders drop out of the race. Bye bye, Beto!

FOOTBALL FRENZY. It’s a great time of year to be a college football fan. A monumental game is on tap this Saturday between LSU and Alabama, two SEC teams rated #2 and #3 respectively in the season’s first College Football Playoffs rankings. And if the high stakes game isn’t enough excitement, a high profile fan will be in the stadium–President Donald Trump. Who will President Trump be rooting for? Well, he is a member of the GOP whose official symbol is an elephant….Roll Tide???

TRASH TECHNOLOGY.  Thanks to technology, household chores are now less onerous. The world’s first self-changing trash can is currently on sale. Townew’s Smart Trash Can automatically seals the bag inside with the touch of a button. No muss, no fuss. Once the bag is removed, a new bag is automatically installed. Unfortunately, the smart trash can is not smart enough to take the discarded bag out to the street for pickup, but progress has been made.

IT’S BACK!  Didn’t get to try Popeye’s new chicken sandwich when it debuted in August, promptly sold out, and dropped off the menu?. Hallelujah!  The apparently to die for fast food feature is now back and available for purchase. Unconfirmed rumors indicate the chicken sandwich boldly asserted, “Ill be back” before fading off the menu. A chicken fight is back on between Popeye’s and Chck-Fil-A, although Chick-Fil-A observes a ceasefire on Sundays.

We can all be thankful that there is more than simply bad news out there. It may take some searching to find them; however, some current events do provide reasons for us to be thankful. Keep an eye out for additional reasons to give thanks this month when you are reading or listening to the news. And express gratitude when you come across them.


Can you think of other current events that give rise to a reason for gratitude? Do we tend to focus on good news or bad? Which attracts more media attention? Does giving thanks promote a more positive attitude?