SECURITY FILES /// 5 Questions : Operation Euphrates Shield

5 Questions: Operation Euphrates Shield

1. What are the technical details of the operation?

The “Operation Euphrates Shield” is a military operation led by the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) together with the Syrian opposition forces to eliminate DAESH from Jarabulus in the Syrian province of Aleppo. Along with the Turkish air and land forces, special TAF units and the National Intelligence Organization (MIT) are also taking part in this operation, which is partially supported by the international coalition against DAESH. Turkey trained and equipped the Syrian opposition forces of Sultan Murad Brigade, Sham Front, Faylaq al-Sham, Jaysh al-Nasr, Jaysh al-Tahrir, Hamza Division, Liwa al-Muattasim, Nureddin Zengi Brigade, 13th Division and Liwa Suqur al-Jabal for the “Operation Euphrates Shield” in advance. It is noteworthy that additionally to groups that were part of the Hawar-Kilis Operations Room, which had liberated Al-Rai from DAESH, the Nureddin Zengi Brigade, 13th Division, Jaysh al-Nasr and Faylaq al-Sham participated in the operation.

Turkey has been striving for a long time to take control from DAESH of the 90-kilometer-long Azaz-Jarabulus region with the aim of securing its border line as in the case of the zone between Azaz and al-Rai that was already liberated from DAESH. In this manner, the “Operation Euphrates Shield” is in fact the second phase of a controlled effort to secure Turkey´s border with Syria. The operation began at 4 a.m., August 24 with Turkish artillery and howitzer strikes. Following these shellings, the Turkish Air Force and the International Coalition targeted several DAESH positions and helped to create a corridor for 25 TAF tanks and Syrian opposition forces to cross the border to Syria along with TAF Special Forces and other special units of the intelligence agency. Constitutively, the “Euphrates Shield” operation had two phases. The first phase aimed to liberate several villages and areas in the west and south of Jarabulus in order to be able to lay siege to the city. In the second phase, an offensive attack enabled the entrance of the aforementioned forces to the city center. The numbers of the Syrian opposition forces involved in this operation is estimated at 2,000-3,000.

2. What is the importance of Jarabulus? Why did Turkey start this operation?

Jarabulus is very important for all actors on the ground. The city has a logistic importance due to its position on the west banks of the Euphrates. In addition to this, its border crossing with Turkey will allow the logistic support of Turkey-supported oppositional forces. This border gate was considered DAESH’s last door to the world by virtue of the presence of illegal crossing points. Possible future operations towards south-west fronts are now easier since the city is secured by the Euphrates River on its east side and Turkey in the north. To create Turkey´s long-awaited security zone, DAESH could be attacked from the Azaz-Marea-al-Rai axis and from Jarabulus simultaneously.

Jarabulus was taken by opposition forces on July 2012 and then captured by DAESH at the end of 2013. After the loss of Tal Abyad, DAESH held its last border gate at Jarabulus. Turkey arrested lots of people who tried to cross the border using illegal border-crosssings near the border gate of Jarabulus. In 2015, the PYD tried to take control of Jarabulus, so they could unite their self-declared cantons in Northern Syria. Jarabulus is important to Turkey for avoiding further threats to its border and for preventing the fusion of the PYD cantons.

3. How will the regional dimensions be shaped after the operation?

During his visit to Ankara, Joe Biden constantly emphasized that “The people of Turkey have no greater friend than the United States of America.” This could be understood as the USA expressing its wish to continue its cooperating relationship with Turkey. In this regard the U.S. demand that the PYD/YPG withdraw their forces back to the east side of the Euphrates could be interpreted as a positive step towards Turkey´s Syria policy. Furthermore, the weak response of the Assad regime could be seen as a result of the Turkish-Iranian talks. Added to this, the normalization process with Russia leads to the same enemy setting, namely of DAESH and PYD/YPG. The policy of Turkey from the very beginning to maintain the territorial integrity of Syria made it possible to reach an agreement on this base with the other sides. The common goal to fight against DAESH, which was created by the USA, now has developed into a fight also against the PYD/YPG to save the territorial integrity of Syria.

On the other side, all developments until “Operation Euphrates Shield” on the northern countryside of Aleppo were in favor of the PYD/YPG. The SDF/PYD/YPG, which has gained the support of the US-led Internal Coalition lead, was able to make great progress against DAESH and the Syrian opposition. But with this operation, Turkey and the Turkish Air Force are now effective on the ground. This was the first time Turkish jets entered the Syrian airspace since the downing of a Russian jet. With this move Turkey also broke the aerial control of the International Coalition. As a result, this will also influence the situation on the ground in Syria. The PYD/YPG has made positive gains for its dream of a PYD corridor under the banner of the fight against DAESH, but now they have lost their role as the force fighting DAESH and given up their advantage as a result of the air support from the International Coalition. The opposition force will be able to advance against DAESH and to limit the countryside controlled by the PYD/YPG. After pushing back PYD/YPG and DAESH forces, the position of Turkey and the Syrian opposition will get stronger.

4. How is the existence of the PYD/PKK in Northern Syria a threat to Turkey?

The PYD gained dominance in the regions of Afrin, Ayn al-Arab and Jazira by creating a symbiotic relationship with the Assad regime during the Syrian revolution. Since 2003, they acted as the Syrian affiliate of the PKK. Finally, they took control of a region in the northwest and northeast of Syria with the aim of creating a corridor that went as far as Afrin. The PYD has been behind the ethnic cleansing of Turkmens and Arabs in the region in an effort to create a society dominated by its own population. The PYD also give the HPG logistic support for terrorist attacks in Turkey. The military alliance with the USA against DAESH gave them new power, as a result of which they declared the Northern Syrian Federation. In conclusion, the PYD is a threat to Turkey and to the territorial integrity of Syria.

5. What are the next steps for Turkey?

One can expect that Turkey will take steps to effectuate a safe zone after the “Operation Euphrates Shield,” which has been on its agenda for a long time. A buffer zone may be established, which covers an area between Azaz and Jarabulus of 90 km in length and 40 km in depth and which has been liberated from DAESH and PYD/PKK terrorist groups. Thus, while Turkey eliminates major threats to its national security, people who forcibly migrated from these areas, can now return to their homes safely. After “Operation Euphrates Shield,” Turkey will carry on the air support to opposition forces to enable them to progress firstly to al-Rai and then further south against DAESH. Turkey should take steps to secure its borderline as much as possible and provide the Syrian opposition forces the support to go deeper towards the southern countryside. With this change of the balance of power, Turkey can support the unification efforts of the Syrian opposition forces in Idlib and Aleppo and lead them toward becoming a powerful actor on the ground and at the negotiation tables with the regime. Turkey should also try to isolate the YPG and to win over other groups that are under the umbrella of the SDF. Finally, following this, Turkey should act together with local actors, groups and tribes to push the YPG towards the east of the Euphrates.

EU wants Turkey’s Erdogan to be the next ‘Yanukovych’

 

Very interesting perspective from Pravda.
Pulat Tacar
EU wants Turkey’s Erdogan to be the next ‘Yanukovych’World » Asia » Turkey. The latest and breaking news from Turkey

EU wants Turkey's Erdogan to be the next 'Yanukovych'. 60019.jpeg

When discussing the recent scandal in the relations between Turkey and the European Union, many pay attention to the electoral aspect of this conflict – the forthcoming elections in Germany and France and a referendum in Turkey. However, it remains unclear why Turkish President Erdogan has decided to go to the length of the conflict.

Many Russian and not only Russian political analysts or teachers of political science do not understand, for some reason, the difference between making and developing decisions in big politics. This is an aspect of paramount importance in understanding the very nature of democracy. For example, many say that we can not change anything in foreign policy, because it is the president, who makes decisions at this point. This is a wrong point of view, because there are many people, who analyze various issues, elaborate decisions and show influence on the president.

Naturally, there are people, who make decisions, form medium and long-term policy in the European Union.

Turkish President Recep Erdogan is a very smart and experienced politician, who has an amazing, and I would even say, phenomenal political instinct. Erdogan has a remarkable sense of danger, which allows him to stay in power for so long despite intricate intrigues in the Turkish policy. He has felt something and decided to aggravate the relations with the European Union.

There are reasons to believe that Erdogan understood that the EU was going to launch the process that could be referred to as the “Ukrainization” of Turkey, in which Erdogan would have to play the role of the Turkish Yanukovych or even Ceausescu or Gaddafi.

Let’s take a look at the recent history of the European Union. The machine of German and French capital constantly needs the process of EU expansion. When expanding the European Union, the German-French capital destroys productions on newly acquired territories and captures new markets at the same time.

At first, Germany and France (as well as small countries of the “old” EU) destroyed production in Southern Europe. Spain still has Seat and Italy has Fiat, but there is practically no machine-building in these countries, nor are there shipyards in Greece). Afterwards, having seized and digested the economy and production sector of those countries, the German capital turned to Eastern Europe and the Baltic States.

Turkey next after Ukraine

The EU needs to constantly expand by destroying productions in new territories and conquering new markets. Otherwise, the EU will simply disappear in competition with Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Indian, and even Russian and American producers. The European competition will not be able to stand fair competition. Ukraine is the most recent victim of the German-French capital. The German capital has not been able to fully digest it, but the destruction of the Ukrainian national economy is only a matter of time, and the capital will need to expand further. Turkey appears to be next on the line.

It is important to understand here that capital is not malevolent or insidious. It destroys the Ukrainian economy not because Germany wants the Ukrainians to live worse and worse. On the contrary, German masters of life want the Ukrainian “untermenschen” to live well under the German “ordnung”, gradually turning them into law-abiding and obedient Europeans. I think that when Ukraine recognizes the will of the people of the Crimea and people’s republics of Donbass, Ukraine will become a member of the European Union.

Simply put, capital is indifferent to everything except its profit. It needs to capture new markets and destroy their production. German and French entrepreneurs naturally assume that selling Volkswagen and Peugeot vehicles in Ukraine is much more profitable than letting Ukraine make its own cars. Therefore, they have decided to let the Ukrainian Zaporozhye Automobile Plant die in peace.

After digesting the Ukrainian economy that used to be Europe’s fifth largest economy in 1991, German planners and strategists will turn to Turkey as the next candidate for the “European integration.” Similarly, Turkey may become a member of the European Union, if Turkey lets European giants destroy its national industry and agriculture.

Turkey’s future depends on relations with Russia

Needless to say that Erdogan does not like the idea. Of course, Turkey is not Ukraine. Yet, Turkey already has its fifth column. This is the old Istanbul commercial capital, which has little to do with the manufacturing sector, but is very interested in Turkey’s accession to the European Union. Representatives of the Istanbul capital despise Erdogan, who relies on industrialists of Anatolia (the Asian part of Turkey).

Yet, the Anatolian capital that has made Erdogan become the Erdogan he is today, can easily become the comprador capital in nature, because production has reached new stages, when financial services (for example, export services, export insurance, banking services, lending, etc.) play a more important role in terms of profit than production itself. To crown it all, no one knows who is stronger: the Istanbul trade capital or the Anatolian industrial capital.

In addition, there is the so-called “military” sector of the Turkish economy that remains under the control of the military. First and foremost, it goes about heavy and mining industries, as well as shipbuilding and similar industries. There are many Europe-oriented people among the Turkish military, and those people may support those, who may wish to topple Erdogan like Yanukovych.

One may say that Erdogan is a lot stronger than Yanukovych. Yet, Yanukovych managed to organize his supporters after the first Maidan in Ukraine and thus win both presidential and parliamentary elections in the country. In 2012-2013, many considered his removal from power absolutely impossible. Similarly, many think that it is impossible to topple Turkish President Erdogan.

Erdogan understands that Yanukovych’s attempts to sit between two chairs – be nice to both the European Union and Russia – have taken him to the shameful fiasco. Probably, Erdogan correctly assesses the current situation and understands that he needs to be more sincere, more open with Russia. Hopefully, he understands that his political future and, most importantly, the future of Turkey depends on relations with Russia.

Said Gafurov
Pravda.Ru

Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru

Is Turkey Still a Democracy?

An upcoming referendum and a vicious war of words with Europe could end up making Erdogan more powerful — and isolated — than ever. By david.kenner

Is Turkey Still a Democracy?

ANKARA, Turkey — In a half-destroyed temple overlooking the Turkish capital, there is a carved inscription of a text known as “The Deeds of the Divine Augustus.” It is the most complete surviving version of the funerary inscription of the first Roman emperor, Augustus. Following its hagiographic accounts of wars won, gladiatorial spectacles commissioned, and money showered upon the populace, it concludes with a line that would later be echoed by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk: Augustus, it says, was considered by the people of Rome as the “father of the country.” Two millennia after Augustus, the conspiracies and political machinations of ancient Rome have nothing on modern Turkey. Today, the debate revolves around whether its current ruler, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is echoing Augustus once again — this time by gutting the country’s democratic institutions and concentrating all power in his own hands. On April 16, Turks will vote in a referendum over a package of constitutional amendments meant to concentrate more power in the office of the presidency, the position currently held by Erdogan.

Trending Articles Hawaii Court Stops Trump’s Second Travel Ban Challengers argued the revised order was still a Muslim ban — citing Trump’s own words — and a federal judge agreed.

The vote serves as a stand-in for the country’s views on Erdogan’s 14 years of rule. The rest of the world, meanwhile, is staging its own informal referendum on Erdogan. Over three days of meetings last week in Ankara, government officials defended the amendments as commonsense measures to ensure administrative stability and reform an undemocratic constitution devised by the country’s former military dictators. The opposition leaders spearheading the “no” campaign in the referendum, meanwhile, warned that the country was sliding into authoritarianism — in some cases, comparing Erdogan’s style of governance to dictators like Saddam Hussein. It’s too soon to predict whether Erdogan will win the upcoming referendum, but his government is already proving incapable of making its case to the West. The referendum has already sparked a new rift between Turkey and several European states. Both Germany and the Netherlands, which are both approaching their own elections amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment, recently banned demonstrations by Turkish officials seeking to drum up the “yes” vote among expatriate Turks. Erdogan responded by accusing both countries of NazismErdogan responded by accusing both countries of Nazism, warning that the Netherlands will “pay the price” for its decision. The spat with Germany and the Netherlands is just one example. On a range of issues — from the state of Turkey’s democracy to the Turkish role in Syria to Turkey’s extradition request for the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom it accuses of planning last summer’s coup attempt — Western countries have refused to adopt Ankara’s views. Ankara is partially responsible for its own alienation. Consider last week’s trip to Turkey organized for more than a dozen American journalists from outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal by Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek. The event was billed as a chance to meet with the country’s top officials, including President Erdogan, to hear their narrative of the coup attempt and why the United States should extradite Gulen. The meetings, however, failed to materialize, and reporters were treated to a four-hour meeting with Gokcek himself. The majority of reporters left the meeting in protest. During the talk, Gokcek failed to present a single piece of evidence implicating Gulen in the coup and instead laid out his own conspiratorial worldview. “A recent earthquake in the gulf [off Turkey’s western coast] was triggered by the United States and Israel with a ship.… With a little bit of energy, they tried to trigger the fault line,” Gokcek said. The Ankara mayor, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), has warned before that foreign and domestic enemies were causing earthquakes in Turkey. He also mused that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had founded the Islamic State, citing the statements of U.S.

President Donald Trump as corroboration. “I investigate a lot,” he said, when asked for further evidence. “I have the largest intelligence service in the world. You know what it is? Google.” Other officials made the government’s case more successfully. Several argued for a “yes” vote by pointing to the instability of governing coalitions — the republic has had 65 governments in its 94-year history — as a key factor in blocking much-needed reforms and empowering a cadre of unelected bureaucrats and army officers. “I genuinely believe that the current system is not sustainable.… [It] is prone to crises and conflicts,” said Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek. “I would fully recommend that instead of just focusing on fears and theories about President Erdogan, just look at the text.”“I would fully recommend that instead of just focusing on fears and theories about President Erdogan, just look at the text.” The constitutional amendments would concentrate executive power in the hands of the president, a position that until now has been largely ceremonial. The amendments would give him the power to appoint and fire ministers, as well as design state budgets. The president would be able to serve two five-year terms and, unlike now, continue to serve as the head of a political party. With the changes going into effect in 2019, this would potentially allow Erdogan to stay in power until 2029.

Government officials, however, contend that the package would actually enhance the separation of powers in Turkey by dividing parliament’s existing powers with the office of the presidency. Parliament would maintain the power to approve the president’s budget, ratify international treaties and declarations of war, and overrule a presidential decree through legislation. The legal merits of the constitutional changes aside, government officials also portray a “yes” vote as a victory against their domestic opponents — most prominently, the supporters of Gulen and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the state. “I’m convinced that April 16 may serve as a closure,” Simsek said. “Because Turkey’s efforts against the religious cult [the Gulenists] are largely done. The cases are at the court; it’s up to the courts to decide. And the PKK, their strategy once they got emboldened with gains in Syria, it backfired, because Turkey is no ordinary country.” But “closure” is precisely what Turkey’s opposition fears. They think it means they would lose any remaining political influence they have held on to since last summer’s coup attempt, and Erdogan’s subsequent domestic crackdown, by entrenching his position as the country’s preeminent political figure. “We don’t want one-man rule, which is an authoritarian regime,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the largest opposition party, told Foreign Policy from his office in parliament. “The authority to enact laws will be given to one man with this draft change, and we find it very dangerous.”“The authority to enact laws will be given to one man with this draft change, and we find it very dangerous.” Kilicdaroglu, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), is leading the campaign for the “no” vote. But he argues that he is doing so while the playing field is tilted against him. The state of emergency governing Turkey since last summer’s coup attempt has had a chilling effect on public debate, he said, preventing civil society and business associations from expressing their opinion on the referendum for fear of the government. He also contended that the vast majority of Turkey’s media is sympathetic to Erdogan after a crackdown on the press over the past year. Amnesty International recently reported that more than 160 press outlets have been shuttered since the coup attempt and more than 120 journalists are currently imprisoned, making Turkey “the biggest jailer of journalists in the world.” “There is no press freedom in Turkey,” Kilicdaroglu said bluntly. Erdogan, he said, had brought the country “to the edge of the abyss.” The second-largest opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), has the most reason to fear a post-referendum government crackdown. Thirteen of the pro-Kurdish party’s parliamentarians are currently imprisoned, accused of links to the PKK. The party’s co-leaders, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, have both been jailed, and Yuksekdag was stripped from her seat in parliament after being convicted on terrorism charges. Among those arrested was the party’s spokesman, Ayhan Bilgen. At the HDP headquarters in Ankara, Osman Baydemir, a former mayor of the majority-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir, has been thrust into the role. “If you come here next month, I’m not sure who you will meet as a party speaker. I hope Ayhan Bilgen gets out of jail.… But it looks like, unfortunately, I will go to prison, too,” Baydemir said. “This is actually Figen Yuksekdag’s room we are using now. I’m pretty sure that in just this hour, at just this time, [Turkey’s security services] are listening to this room.” However the referendum turns out, the war between Erdogan and his domestic and international foes only seems poised to escalate. As Turkey’s president accuses his antagonists in Europe of Nazism, his political enemies at home are only too happy to throw equally bombastic accusations back at him. “Erdogan’s political style looks like Saddam Hussein’s or Bashar al-Assad’s style,” Baydemir said. “They want to make a one-party state — this is like the example of North Korea.” ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

New York federal prosecutor Preet Bharara says he was fired by Trump administration

New York federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said on March 11 that he had been fired, one day after the Justice Department asked him and 45 other federal prosecutors who had served under President Obama to submit their resignations. (Reuters)
By Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz and Robert Costa March 11 at 3:08 PM
Preet Bharara, one of the most high-profile federal prosecutors in the country, said he was fired Saturday after refusing to submit a letter of resignation as part of an ouster of the remaining U.S. attorneys who were holdovers from the Obama administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

Bharara’s dismissal was an about-face from President Trump’s assurances to the Manhattan-based prosecutor in November, weeks after the election, that he wanted him to stay on the job following a meeting at Trump Tower, according to Bharara.

Two people close to Trump said the president’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions wanted a clean slate of federal prosecutors and were unconcerned about any perception that the White House changed its mind about Bharara. The removal of former president Barack Obama’s federal prosecutors is about asserting who’s in power, the two said.

Checkpoint newsletter

Military, defense and security at home and abroad.

The departure of Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, capped a confusing sequence of events, beginning Friday, when acting deputy attorney general Dana Boente began making calls to 46 prosecutors asking for their resignations by the end of the day. Requests for resignation are a normal part of a transition of power from one administration to another, although both the Bush and Obama administrations let their U.S. attorneys leave gradually.

[The brash New York prosecutor who’s indicting left and right ]

Bharara after meeting with Trump in 2016: ‘I agreed to stay on’

Play Video0:38

After meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower on Nov. 30, 2016, Preet Bharara, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said he agreed to stay remain in his role in the Trump administration. (C-SPAN)

During Friday’s call with Bharara, the New York prosecutor asked for clarity about whether the requests for resignations applied to him, given his previous conversation with Trump, and did not immediately get a definitive answer, according to a person familiar with the exchange.

ADVERTISING

When asked Friday whether Bharara was also being asked for a resignation letter, one White House official not authorized to speak publicly said, “Everybody’s gone,” and would not engage further on the issue.

On Saturday morning, when the administration had still not received Bharara’s resignation, Boente attempted to call the U.S. attorney to find out why, but the two men did not immediately connect, according to people familiar with the discussions.

When they finally did speak shortly before 2:30 p.m., Boente informed Bharara that the order to submit his resignation indeed applied to him because he was a presidentially appointed U.S. attorney, according to a Justice Department official with knowledge of the conversation.

Bharara asked Boente if he was firing him and Boente replied that he was asking him to submit his resignation, the official said.

Minutes later, Bharara announced on Twitter that he was out. “I did not resign,” Bharara said. “Moments ago I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life.”

Bharara sent an email to his staff, asserting again that Boente had removed him from his job.

Sessions asks 46 Obama-era U.S. attorneys to resign

Play Video0:51

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked the remaining 46 chief federal prosecutors left over from the Obama administration to resign “in order to ensure a uniform transition,” the Justice Department said (Reuters)

“Needless to say it is personally very sad for me,” the note said. “This is the greatest place on Earth and I love you all. Even on a day when your U.S. Attorney gets fired it is still Thanksgiving because you all still get to do the most honorable work there is to do.”

Bharara added that the office “could not be in better hands” than with the deputy U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon H. Kim, whom he called “a tremendous leader and public servant and who loves the office just as much as I do.”

Within the Justice Department, some are questioning whether a recent phone call from Trump to Bharara may have contributed to the decision to remove the Obama holdovers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

On Thursday, a White House aide called and left a message for Bharara, saying the president wanted to speak with him, though the prospective topic of discussion was unclear. Bharara consulted his staff and determined that it would probably be a violation of Justice Department protocols for him to speak directly to the president, this person said. That protocol exists in order to prevent political interference — or the appearance of political interference — with Justice Department work.

Bharara then contacted the chief of staff for the attorney general, Jody Hunt, told him of his own determination, and the two agreed that it would be a violation of the Justice Department protocol for Bharara to call the president back. Bharara then called the White House staffer who had left the message and said he wouldn’t be talking to the president, and explained why, this person said.

It’s unclear whether the Trump call and its aftermath had anything to do with Friday’s decision.

Bharara, who was born in India and came to the United States as a child, had a particularly powerful perch in the criminal justice system. The Southern District of New York has 220 assistant U.S. attorneys, making it one of the largest federal prosecutors’ offices in the country.

During his tenure, Bharara indicted 17 prominent New York politicians for malfeasance — 10 of them Democrats. Along with his bipartisan prosecutions, ­Bharara developed a reputation for being tough on insider trading, although he was criticized for the lack of prosecutions that followed the financial crisis.

Bharara was an outspoken man in a job that has been held by vocal and politically aspirant predecessors, including former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and FBI Director James B. Comey.

There is no indication that the ouster of Bharara stems from a disagreement about a particular case or investigation. While the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence inquiry looking for evidence of contacts between agents of the Russian government and Trump campaign advisers, and a former campaign adviser to Trump has been part of an investigation into possible overseas corruption, there have been no signs that Bharara’s office has been involved in either of those probes or any other inquiries that might touch on the president or people close to him.

[Preet Bharara said he wanted to be a U.S. attorney “forever.” Well, he was just fired.]

On Wednesday, watchdog groups asked Bharara to probe whether Trump has received payments or other benefits from foreign governments through his business interests in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving favors or payments from foreign governments.

The president complained on Twitter earlier this month that Obama had ordered wiretapping of Trump Tower during the election season — an accusation that multiple federal law enforcement officials have said is untrue — partly because presidents cannot order the FBI to wiretap Americans, and also because no such surveillance was undertaken. But Bharara was not drawn into that debate, which principally revolved around the Justice Department and FBI headquarters.

Initially after Trump won the presidency, it looked as if Bharara’s position was safe. Trump brought up Bharara’s name in November during a phone conversation with Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whom the president-elect was calling to congratulate on becoming the leader of the Senate Democrats, according to people familiar with the matter. In that conversation, Trump said he was thinking of keeping Bharara in his job, these people said. Schumer praised Bharara and Trump then arranged a meeting with Bharara at Trump Tower.

During the conversation, Trump told Bharara to call ­Sessions, his nominee for attorney general, who also asked Bharara to stay, people familiar with the conversation said.

When Bharara was leaving, according to one person, he asked the president-elect what he should tell the reporters in the lobby. Trump told Bharara to tell them he was staying on, this person said.

Bharara told reporters afterward that the president-elect, “presumably because he’s a New Yorker and is aware of the great work that our office has done over the past seven years,” asked to meet with him and discuss whether he would remain in his position.

“We had a good meeting,” Bharara said. “I agreed to stay on.”

Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Amy B Wang and Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

 

UK: Israel’s ambassador sorry over ‘take down’ Sir Alan Duncan comment

Israel’s ambassador to the UK has apologized after a senior member of his staff was secretly filmed saying he wanted to “take down” Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan.

Israeli Embassy senior political officer Shai Masot made the comment in footage filmed in a London restaurant and obtained by the Mail on Sunday.

He told a reporter that Sir Alan was creating “a lot of problems”.

Ambassador Mark Regev said this was not the embassy or government’s view BBC reported.

Secret recording

The conversation involved Mr Masot and Maria Strizzolo, an aide to education minister Robert Halfon, the former political director of Conservative Friends of Israel, as well as an undercover reporter.

It was recorded in October 2016 as part of an investigation by Al Jazeera.

The BBC understands that Ms Strizzolo has resigned from the civil service.

Mr Masot asked her: “Can I give you some names of MPs that I would suggest you take down?”

Ms Strizzolo replied that all MPs have “something they’re trying to hide” and Mr Masot responded by saying “I have some MPs”, adding “she knows which MPs I want to take down” before specifying “the deputy foreign minister”.

Sir Alan, who has described expanding Israeli settlements as a “stain on the face of the globe”, was seen as more of a problem than Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – who was “basically good”, according to Mr Masot in a transcript of the conversation.

“He just doesn’t care. He is an idiot but has become minister of foreign affairs without any responsibilities. If something real happened it won’t be his fault… it will be Alan Duncan.”

Sir Alan launched a scathing attack on Israel in 2014, when MPs backed Palestinian statehood, deeming Israeli settlements as an “act of theft”.

“Occupation, annexation, illegality, negligence, complicity – this is a wicked cocktail which brings shame on Israel,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme.

Sir Alan, who was special envoy to Yemen and Oman at the time, said “international law must be upheld” to prevent further settlements.

Labour has demanded an immediate inquiry into the extent of Israeli “interference” in British politics.

Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said improper interference was “unacceptable whichever country was involved” adding Mr Masot’s comments were “extremely disturbing”.

She said it was a national security issue and that the Foreign Office’s response was “not good enough”.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Crispin Blunt, Foreign Affairs Select Committee chairman, said Mr Masot’s “apparent activity” was “formally outrageous and deserving of investigation”.

But Sir Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former communications director, said the undercover video was a “classic piece of mischief-making” by the Mail on Sunday.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Mr Masot’s comments should be viewed as “extremely comic” rather than “extremely chilling”.

“The Israeli government just wants to shut [the story] down,” he added. “It’s embarrassing”.

Lord Stuart Polak, director of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “We utterly condemn any attempt to undermine Sir Alan, or any minister, or any member of Parliament.”

Ms Strizzolo told the newspaper that her conversation with Mr Masot was “tongue-in-cheek and gossipy”.

In a statement, the Israeli Embassy said it “rejects the remarks concerning minister Duncan, which are completely unacceptable”.

“The comments were made by a junior embassy employee who is not an Israeli diplomat, and who will be ending his term of employment with the embassy shortly,” it said.

“Ambassador Regev on Friday spoke with minister Duncan, apologised for the comments and made clear that the embassy considered the remarks to be completely unacceptable.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Israeli Ambassador has apologised and is clear these comments do not reflect the views of the embassy or government of Israel.

“The UK has a strong relationship with Israel and we consider the matter closed.”