Turkey is finally starting to get through to US lawmakers about its concerns with American support for the Syrian Kurds, with potential repercussions for the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS). Fresh off a trip to the Syrian refugee camp in Gaziantep, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters last week that the Obama administration's strategy of relying on the People's Protection Units (YPG) to destroy IS is "never going to work." The remarks were immediately picked up by the Turkish press, which eagerly framed them as evidence that Washington may be coming around to Ankara's point of view that the YPG is a close cousin to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a US-designated terrorist group. "What I saw from Turkey was a real anxiety about our strategy in Syria," said Graham, a hawkish member of the Armed Services Committee who unsuccessfully ran for president this cycle. "Turkey is of the view that this strategy will never work and will never result in destroying [IS].
ANKARA – Police searched a mansion in northwestern Turkey belonging to a Saudi citizen on Monday after investigators determined that the man had been in contact with one of the suspects in the slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkish officials said. Crime scene investigators and other officials, aided by sniffer dogs and a drone, scoured the luxury villa near the town of Termal, in Yalova province, and later expanded their search to the grounds of the neighboring villa, the state-run Anadolu agency reported. Police spent around 10 hours searching the two villas for the journalist's remains, Anadolu reported, without saying if any evidence or trace had been found. The Istanbul prosecutor's office said Mansour Othman Abbahussain -- a member of a 15-person squad sent from Riyadh to kill Khashoggi -- had contacted the mansion's owner, Mohammed Ahmed Alfaozan, by telephone a day before Khashoggi's Oct. 2 killing. "It is being assessed that this conversation was geared toward the disposal (or) the hiding of Jamal Khashoggi's body after its dismemberment," the prosecutor's statement read.
NEW YORK/ISTANBUL/NEW DELHI – British billionaire Richard Branson said on Thursday that his Virgin Group would suspend its discussions with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund over a planned $1 billion investment in the group's space ventures, in light of events involving missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkish officials have alleged that Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist, was murdered on Oct. 2 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he went to get documents for his planned marriage. Riyadh has said the claims are baseless. "What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government," Branson said in a statement. Branson also said he would suspend his directorship in two Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea, citing the incident.
ANKARA – Turkish warplanes struck suspected Kurdish rebel positions in Iraq and Syria on Tuesday, drawing condemnation from Baghdad and criticism from the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, which is allied with Kurdish factions in both countries. Syrian activists said the attack killed at least 18 members of the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, which is a close U.S. ally against IS but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey's Kurdish rebels. The airstrikes also killed five members of the Iraqi Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga, which is also battling the extremist group with help from the U.S.-led coalition. The YPG said the strikes hit a media center, a local radio station, a communication headquarters and some military posts, killing an undetermined number of fighters in the town of Karachok, in Syria's northeastern Hassakeh province. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group that monitors all sides of the conflict, said the strikes killed 18 YPG fighters.
Senator Lindsey Graham has said the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia cannot move forward until Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is "dealt with", without elaborating on what action he believes should be taken. Speaking in Ankara a day after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Graham said Congress will reintroduce sanctions against those involved in the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. Last November, the CIA concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the assassination of Khashoggi in Istanbul, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved. Khashoggi, a longtime royal insider who had become a critic of Prince Mohammed, was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit team in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in October, prompting a global outcry. The US Treasury sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals and the Senate adopted a resolution blaming Prince Mohammed.