Defense chief Esper: US troops, armored vehicles going to Syria oil fields

US Secretary for Defense Mark Esper speaks during a media conference after a meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019. (AP)
Updated 25 October 2019

Defense chief Esper: US troops, armored vehicles going to Syria oil fields

  • The defense secretary confirmed that the US will send in an armored force to the region, but he did not provide details or the number of troops
  • When asked about America’s shifting Syria strategy, he said the US mission has always been to prevent the resurgence of Daesh

BRUSSELS: Pentagon chief Mark Esper said Friday that the United States will leave more American troops and armored vehicles in eastern Syria to help prevent Daesh militants from gaining access to oil fields controlled by US-allied Syrian Kurds. That deployment will likely include tanks, a US official said.
The defense secretary confirmed that the US will send in an armored force to the region, but he did not provide details or the number of troops.
His comments at a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels reflected one more change in what has been a rapidly shifting US stance on American forces in Syria.
Just last week, President Donald Trump insisted that all 1,000 American forces in Syria would leave the war-torn country. Then he acknowledged that a couple hundred would stay at the Al-Tanf garrison in the south.
In tweets Friday, Trump said “Oil is secured. Our soldiers have left and are leaving Syria for other places, then.... COMING HOME! ... When these pundit fools who have called the Middle East wrong for 20 years ask what we are getting out of the deal, I simply say, THE OIL, AND WE ARE BRINGING OUR SOLDIERS BACK HOME, Daesh SECURED!“
Esper, when asked about America’s shifting Syria strategy, said the US mission has always been to prevent the resurgence of Daesh. “That mission remains unchanged,” he said.
But Esper said at NATO that the US is “considering how we might reposition forces in the area in order to ensure we secure the oil field.” He added: “We are reinforcing that position. It will include some mechanized forces.”
The US official who send the deployment probably would include tanks offered no more details. This official was not authorized to discuss internal discussions about military planning and spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said the US wants to ensure that Daesh militants do not get access to the oil, which could give the insurgent group to obtain resources to rebuild.
Trump in the past days has turned a greater focus on the Syrian oil facilities in the eastern part of the country, saying US will stay in Syria to protect them.
According to officials, top military leaders have pushed for the US to leave forces in Syria to guard against a Daesh resurgence. While the group’s physical zone of control was largely destroyed by US and Syrian Kurdish forces, insurgents remain in small pockets throughout the country and in Iraq.
Russian and Turkish leaders have now divided up security roles in northeast Syria following America’s abrupt troop withdrawal from the Turkey-Syrian border region. The American move triggered widespread criticism that the Trump administration had abandoned the Syrian Kurdish fighters who fought alongside the US against Daesh for several years.
Trump spurred a fresh wave of condemnation when he tweeted Thursday that he had spoken with Syrian Kurdish military chief Mazloum Abdi and said that perhaps “it is time for Kurds to start heading to the Oil Region.” That was an apparent reference to the oil fields in Deir Ezzor. US military commanders see that region as critical to holding off a Daesh resurgence there.
“We’ve secured the oil, and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,” Trump said. “And we’re going to be protecting it, and we’ll be deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future.”
White House officials did not respond to requests for greater clarity about Trump’s tweet suggesting Kurds head to the oil region.
The Pentagon released a statement Thursday saying it was committed to sending additional military forces to eastern Syria to “reinforce” control of the oil fields and prevent them from “falling back to into the hands of Daesh or other destabilizing actors.”


Ex-housekeeper sues Israeli PM’s wife over abusive behavior

Updated 5 min 18 sec ago

Ex-housekeeper sues Israeli PM’s wife over abusive behavior

  • Last year, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds

JERUSALEM: A former housekeeper at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence is suing the leader’s wife Sara for pain and suffering allegedly caused during her employment there, the housekeeper’s attorney said on Thursday.

Opheer Shimson says his client is demanding $190,000 in damages for the abuse from Sara Netanyahu. He said the woman, an immigrant from France in her mid-50s and a mother of five who wished to keep her identity secret, worked at the residence for five months until last November, when she was injured from a fall caused by what he described as Sara Netanyahu’s tyrannical demands.

He said the woman, a staunch supporter of the prime minister, kept a diary detailing the verbal abuse she endured from his wife.

“She adores the prime minister and saw her work at his home as a form of national service,” Shimson told The Associated Press. “But she’s been traumatized by her experience. Everyone knew what was going on there, and no one can say otherwise.”

Sara Netanyahu has been accused of abusive behavior toward her personal staff before. This, together with accusations of excessive spending and using public money on her own extravagant personal tastes, has earned her an image as the Israeli Imelda Marcos, the Philippines’ former first lady who became infamous for her massive collection of designer shoes.

Last year, Sara Netanyahu was convicted of misusing state funds after she reached a plea bargain settling allegations that she overspent some $100,000 of state money on lavish meals. She’d previously been indicted for graft, fraud and breach of trust.

In 2016, a court ruled the prime minister’s wife mistreated a housekeeper and awarded the man $42,000 in damages. Several other employees have accused her of abuse, mistreatment and harassment. Another pending lawsuit alleges she forbade a former staffer to eat or drink on the job and required her to change her clothes dozens of times a day. The plaintiff, who is also seeking damages, says Sara Netanyahu also required her to wash her hands dozens of times a day and dry them with a towel separate from the one used by the Netanyahu family.

The Netanyahus have angrily rejected all the charges, calling them part of a media-orchestrated campaign against the family to oust them from power.

Israel heads to the polls next week for its third election in less than a year. Two weeks later, Benjamin Netanyahu goes on trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust stemming from accusations he accepted lavish gifts from billionaire friends and promised to promote advantageous legislation for a major newspaper in exchange for favorable coverage.

The latest allegations against Sara Netanyahu include details on a bevy of berating comments she unleashed on those who worked for her. Shimson said the personal diary would be presented in court as evidence.

“Enough, save me, I want to die, the problem is that I don’t have any choice and everyone knows that,” reads one of his client’s entries, which was first published on Israel’s Channel 12 news. ”It’s impossible to live every day with a psychopath. I’m dying to leave before it’s too late.”

In another entry, she said Sara Netanyahu screamed at her for forgetting to throw out the garbage, called her stupid and dirty and demanded she take a shower. The woman wrote that Sara Netanyahu accused her of trying to cause friction with the prime minister.

“She said to me: ‘What do you want? For me to be like you, divorced?’” she wrote. “Even the prime minister told her to stop. She was in a trance. In the afternoon she had a fit, lay down on the ground, screamed and screamed like a lunatic, and shook with rage. She rolled around on the floor, and said that all of that was because of me.”

The ruling Likud Party denounced the TV report about the lawsuit as a “cruel, false, recycled and gossipy piece that was timed for release on the eve of elections and whose purpose was to harm the Likud.”