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Turkish Tough Talk

Turkish Tough Talk

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was overjoyed about Donald Trump's decision to remove US troops from Syria. Until now, the main thing preventing Erdogan from crushing Syrian Kurds just across the border was the protection of US forces who've been fighting alongside them.


So it's little surprise then that US National Security Advisor John Bolton, who just days earlier committed to slow-roll the president's withdrawal plan, was greeted less than warmly upon arriving in Turkey yesterday. Erdogan calledBolton's precondition that America's Kurdish allies in Syria be protected "unacceptable" and was so put off that he refused to meet with him altogether.

What's got the Turkish president so riled? Erdogan has long viewed Kurdish militias operating in northern Syria as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a violent Kurdish nationalist group within Turkey which Ankara considers a terrorist organization. As it happens, the EU and US agree on that.

But there's a big split between Washington and Ankara over the Kurdish militia across the border in northern Syria, known as the People's Protection Unites (or YPG). Turkey considers them an offshoot of the PKK that ought to be destroyed before it can set up a truly autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Syria.

The US, meanwhile, views the YPG as a valuable ally in the fight against ISIS and does not consider it a terrorist organization, which infuriates Turkey.

With the US withdrawal, Erdogan saw an opportunity to send Turkish troops and tanks into northern Syria, crush the Kurds, and declare "Mission Accomplished" all before crucial local Turkish elections in March. Sinking in the polls and with Turkey's economy in tatters, he could certainly use the political boost. But with the Trump administration suddenly attaching conditions to any US withdrawal from Turkey, that golden opportunity is fading.

Yesterday Erdogan reiterated his intention to move forward with an incursion, but doing so would risk significant political, and possibly even military, blowback from the US, to say nothing of a potential clash between US and Turkish troops.

The bottom line: The domestic consequences of Trump's hasty decision to bring home US troops from Syria were apparent almost immediately when Defense Secretary Mattis resigned over the issue. But now we are starting to see the thornier regional and US foreign policy implications as well.

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Learn more about Callista in this episode of Faces of Eni.

Saturday will mark the beginning of an historic turning point for European politics as 1,001 voting members of Germany's Christian Democratic Union, the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, hold an online conference to elect a new leader.

Here are the basic facts:

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Since Martin Luther King Jr delivered his iconic "I have a dream" speech in August 1963, the number of Black Americans elected to the United States Congress has dramatically increased. Still, it wasn't until 2019, more than half a century later, that the share of Black members serving in the House of Representatives reflected the percentage of Black Americans in the broader population —12 percent. To date, only six states have sent a Black representative to serve in the US Senate (recent runoff elections will make Georgia the seventh state), and many states have never elected a Black representative to either house of Congress. Here's a look at Black representation in every US Congress since 1963.

More than 32 million COVID shots have now been administered globally, raising hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel is now in sight.

The US has vaccinated 3 percent of its total population, while the UK is nearing a solid 5 percent inoculation rate. In Israel, which has been hailed as a vaccine success story, almost 24 percent of people have already received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

But while many countries are able to glimpse the outlines of a post-COVID world, there is a huge population of people who are being left out entirely. Refugees, as well as displaced, undocumented, and stateless people around the world remain ineligible for inoculations and vulnerable to the coronavirus.

We take a look at three case studies where powerless populations are being left in the lurch.

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