You're all in on the boogeyman, huh? Anything that happens at all untowards a potential Democrat or merely looks like it might impact one is all Russia all the time with you. Good to know how to weigh your posts moving forward.
Is Donald Trump a proven liar?
Is Donald Trump a proven liar?
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Is Donald Trump a proven liar?
Hakan Sukur is Turkey's greatest ever goalscorer and once one of Europe's most prolific strikers. A legend.
So, how did he end up driving taxis and selling books for a living in the US, in exile from his home country?
According to an interview with German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, the 48-year-old former striker's life has taken an unusual and troubling turn since retiring from football in 2008.
He claims that a rift with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has exposed him to death threats, false accusations and lack of access to funds.
'I have nothing left, Erdogan took everything: my right to liberty, freedom of expression and right to work," he told the paper.
Sukur scored 51 goals in 112 appearances for Turkey between 1992 and 2007. He was part of the Turkish side that finished third at the 2002 World Cup.
The former Blackburn player spent the majority of his career at Galatasaray and is the all-time leading goalscorer in the Super Lig - the Turkish top flight.
After retiring from football, he went into politics. In 2011, Sukur won a seat in Turkey's Parliament as a member of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party .
But he was also tied to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Islamic scholar and rival of Erdogan, whom the Turkish President blamed for a bloody attempted coup in 2016.
Sukur, by then living in the US, reportedly denounced the attempted coup, but was nonetheless, in 2017, described by Turkish-run state media as a "fugitive member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO)."
That report describes him living in a $3m house, running a cafe at Palo Alto, "the richest area of San Francisco Bay Area."
Sukur tells a less fun-sounding story.
"I moved to the United States, initially running a cafe in California, but strange people kept coming into the bar," he told Welt am Sonntag. "Now I drive for Uber and I sell books."
He has said that his houses, businesses and bank accounts in Turkey had all been seized by Erdogan's government.
He also denies any crimes.
"Nobody seems able to explain what my role in this coup was supposed to be," he added. "I never did anything illegal, I am not a traitor or a terrorist."
This is not the first time he's spoken on the subject. In 2018 he told the New York Times: "It's my country; I love my people, even though their ideas about me are distorted by controlled media."
The story throws up more questions about Erdogan's government. In 2018, Mesut Ozil attracted criticism after posing for a picture with the Turkish President, including from the German Football Federation (DFB), which said "football and the DFB defend values which are not sufficiently respected by Mr Erdogan".
Erdogan was subsequently best man at Ozil's wedding.
Politics and sport hey? A thorny business.
Manchester United have scrapped plans for a training camp in the Gulf region during next month's winter break because of security concerns.
United do not play for 16 days between Premier League ties against Wolves on 1 February and at Chelsea on 17 February.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer plans to give his squad a few days off before going away for a training camp.
While the destination had not been decided, Qatar and Dubai would have been near the top of United's list.
In January last year, Solskjaer took his squad to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and sent some of his players there again in November during an international break.
United have also previously used the Aspire Academy in Qatar's capital Doha for a winter training camp.
There has been a rise in tensions in the region after senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US air strike in Baghdad and a Ukrainian International Airlines plane was accidentally shot down in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers.
Solskjaer has decided to keep his squad in Europe, most likely Spain or Portugal, to prepare for the rest of their campaign, which includes a Europa League last-32 meeting with Belgian side Club Bruges.
When asked if United's plans had changed, Solskjaer said: "Yes, there are things that worry me more than football.
"We were looking at the Middle East but that is definitely not going to happen. We will stay in Europe."
The latest Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice for Qatar is that tourists should "remain vigilant" amid a "heightened threat of terrorist attacks globally against UK interests and British nationals".
The family of Harry Dunn are "absolutely distraught" over comments made by the prime minister, said family spokesman Radd Seiger.
Mr Dunn, 19, died after being hit by a car allegedly driven by Anne Sacoolas, who left the country for the US claiming diplomatic immunity.
Boris Johnson told the BBC that he believed the chances of Mrs Sacoolas being extradited were "very low".
The comments came on Harry's mother's birthday and left her "bitterly upset".
Mr Seiger told the BBC: "The Dunn family are absolutely on their knees and I am still trying to pick my jaw up off the floor.
"It's an outrageous set of comments to make from the leader of this country, whose job it is to represent the people."
Charlotte Charles, Harry's mother, was "bitterly upset and confused" and "absolutely beside herself, on her birthday," said Mr Seiger.
He said the family had agreed with government officials not to comment on the extradition process while proceedings were ongoing.
"I'm hoping Mr Johnson will reflect on the comments he made, they were unhelpful to say the least, " he said.
The family are also taking legal action against the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The claim against the FCO issued on behalf of Mr Dunn's parents - Ms Charles and Tim Dunn - alleged the granting of diplomatic immunity to Mrs Sacoolas was "wrong in law".
New documents, seen by the PA news agency, suggest the FCO will say they did not claim Mrs Sacoolas had immunity.
Northamptonshire Police have now said the force will take part in the family's claim and they will not seek to retrieve any costs.
The US State Department has previously said the extradition request for Mrs Sacoolas is highly inappropriate and would be an abuse.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has said the country's military should elaborate more on how it shot down a passenger plane by mistake last week.
Separately, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif acknowledged that Iranians "were lied to" for days afterwards.
He insisted that he and the president were also kept in the dark.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards killed 176 people when they "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian aircraft amid escalating tensions with the US.
Hours before, Iranian missiles had targeted two airbases in Iraq housing US forces.
Speaking on state television on Wednesday, President Rouhani called on the military to take the next steps of the investigation with "more coordination and monitoring".
"The first thing is to inform people honestly. People's grief will alleviate when they know that we feel responsible for what happened and talk with them honestly," he said.
He urged the forces "to explain to people what sessions and meetings were held since the moment that the incident happened".
Mr Zarif, during a televised interview while on a trip to India, said: "I and the president did not know [what brought the plane down] and, as soon as we did, we communicated it".
He also praised the military for being "brave enough to claim responsibility early on". However, critics have decried the three-day delay and said they only owned up after Western authorities claimed to have contrary evidence.
The dozens of pages of notes, text messages and other records lay out work conducted by Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, and his associate Lev Parnas on behalf of the president. They include handwritten notes scrawled on a sheet of hotel paper at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Vienna that mention getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce an investigation of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.
House Democrats released the records even as Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a Wednesday vote to name House prosecutors and send the articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump to the Senate to begin the trial. The material undergirds the accusations against Mr. Trump, and highlights how much is still to be learned about the scope of a scheme that the impeachment charges call a blatant effort to solicit foreign help in the 2020 election.
The documents, provided by Mr. Parnas, contain a series of exchanges between him and a Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who was helping Mr. Giuliani unearth damaging information about the Bidens.
In one of the exchanges, from March 2019, Mr. Lutsenko messaged Mr. Parnas on the WhatsApp messaging service to complain that the Trump administration had not yet ousted the United States ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Mr. Lutsenko, who had clashed with Ms. Yovanovitch and wanted her gone, appeared to link her removal to his assistance in attacking the Bidens.
“It’s just that if you don’t make a decision about Madam — you are bringing into question all my allegations. Including about B,” he wrote to Mr. Parnas, in apparent references to Ms. Yovanovitch and Mr. Biden.
Mr. Lutsenko added: “And here you can’t even get rid of one [female] fool,” an apparent reference to Ms. Yovanovitch. He also inserted a frowning emoji.
“She’s not a simple fool[,] trust me,” Mr. Parnas responded. “But she’s not getting away.” The president, with Mr. Giuliani’s encouragement, recalled Ms. Yovanovitch from her post in late April.
The Parnas documents also include a May 2019 letter from Mr. Giuliani requesting a meeting with Mr. Zelensky in which he said Mr. Trump had “knowledge and consent” of his actions. It is the first document to be made public to say as much.
On January 7, Russian President Vladimir Putin travelled to Syria for the second time in three years. During his previous trip to Syria in December 2017, Putin landed at Russia's Hmeimim airbase for security reasons.
This time he took the ostensibly riskier step of touching down at Damascus International Airport, which had previously been the target of attacks, including by Israel trying to hit pro-Iran militias.
While back in 2017 Russian media held off on reporting on Putin's trip until after he departed, there was no such delay this time around.
Putin's choice of destination and timing is hardly accidental. It was meant to show that he has nothing to fear when visiting a key regional ally. The gesture is even more poignant considering the recent assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani at Bagdad airport.
The death of the Iranian general could cause more instability in the region, but for Russia, this may mean more opportunities to grow its clout in the Middle East.
Soleimani played an important role in Russia-Iran relations. It has been rumoured that he persuaded the Kremlin to intervene in the Syrian war on behalf of Bashar al-Assad's regime during an unofficial visit to Moscow in July 2015.
For most Russian security analysts, however, this version of events seems implausible. It was reported that in June 2015 Moscow's military specialists had already travelled to Syria and identified a location for a Russian military base near Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia. By late July, special forces units were sent to clear land around the airport to establish what would be known as Hmeimim airbase.
In other words, Russia clearly intended to intervene militarily in Syria before that alleged visit.
But while the extent of Soleimani's influence may have been exaggerated, it was by no means negligible. The Kremlin found him to be a reliable partner on whose assistance it could count, especially during the initial stages of its troop deployment to Syria.
Despite its close cooperation with Iran in the Syrian war, Russia did not hesitate to turn a blind eye when Israel started attacking Iranian-backed militias, which Soleimani directed. From Iran's perspective, Russia could have prevented the attacks since it purported to protect Syrian airspace.
The Iranians repeatedly expressed their displeasure at the lack of aerial protection for the positions of the forces it backs in Syria, but, through various channels, Moscow explained that it did not wish to intervene in the conflict between Iran and Israel in Syria and did not want to get involved in the transit of weapons to Lebanon.
And even though Russia deployed an S-300 missile system to Syria following Israel's role in the downing of a Russian plane in September 2018, these attacks continued.
Despite officially maintaining cordial attitudes towards one another, Russia and Iran do not see eye to eye on many aspects of the Syrian conflict. While Moscow has been committed to strengthening Syria's formal security and military institutions, Tehran has been trying to build alternative ones. Soleimani, in particular, had been trying to strengthen the position of Iran-backed militias in Syrian state structures, which had displeased the Russians.
On the ground, there has been persistent tension between Iranian and Russian-backed forces. There have been assassinations in both camps and fierce competition for territory and credit over the fight against ISIL (ISIS). The friction became especially apparent in Deraa province, where rebels accepted reconciliation with the regime under Russian sponsorship. There, Russian forces expelled some units of the Fourth Division, which is known to have close ties to Iran, to maintain its influence over the area.
Meanwhile, Iran has sought to strengthen its grip on the capital, Damascus, by buying land to effectively create a security zone around it. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has also managed to strengthen its position in Homs province, where the Russian company Stroytransgaz mines phosphates for export.
Soleimani had played a special role in these tensions, often acting outside of his official mandate as IRGC commander. By cultivating relations with pro-Iran militias, the commander sought to grow his clout and secure leverage over regional elites.
New opportunities for Russia
Immediately after the news broke of Soleimani's assassination, both the Russian defence and foreign ministries condemned the act. Yet the Russian presidency refrained from commenting directly on the matter.
It is also telling that photos of a small Russian delegation expressing condolences to Iranian officials at the Iranian embassy in Damascus were published on social media and not on any of the state news agencies.
While Soleimani's death may lead to an escalation of tensions between Iran and the United States and exacerbate instability, for Russia, this may present new opportunities.
Up until his assassination, the Iranian commander acted as a de-facto guarantor of stable relations between the Iranian government and its proxies, including Syrian militias. After his death, it remains to be seen if Iran will be able to maintain the same level of close coordination with these forces or manage their activities in Syria and other countries.
If the Iranian grip over these forces falters, Moscow could exploit it to grow its influence in Damascus. With his Iranian allies scrambling to control the situation after Soleimani's death, Syria's al-Assad may become even more dependent on Russia's support.
Putin's visit to Damascus should be seen in this context - it was intended to demonstrate Russia's dominance in Syria and convey its confidence in its approach to the region.
His decision to use Damascus airport may indicate that Russia is pushing for a greater economic role in Syria. Last year several airlines, including Bahrain's Gulf Air and UAE's Etihad, mulled resuming flights to Damascus.
Russian businessmen have already shown interest in bankrolling the airport's expansion with a new terminal. According to some reports, Russia even asked Israel to cease targeting the airport and in return, it said it might help reduce the volume of Iran's supplies through Damascus, the very supply route that until recently had been overseen by Soleimani's Quds Force.
Yet Russia's economic activities in Syria lag behind Iran in terms of scale and scope. Being engaged in a wide range of sectors - from construction and real estate to manufacturing industries - Tehran has played a major role in the Syrian economy after 2011.
While there are business opportunities for Russian companies, especially as the Assad regime has promised to give them preferential treatment, many are reluctant to engage for fear of Western sanctions and uncertainty over returns on any investment.
So far the main Russian player in Syria is Stroytransgaz, linked to Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko, which is primarily engaged in developing oil and phosphate deposits.
Soleimani's death also opens the door for Russia in Iraq, which is contemplating expelling American troops from its soil. The measure was supported by some Iraqi parties and the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMFs). It is true that the Iraqi parliament's resolution calling on the government to remove US troops lacks legal force. Nevertheless, it is a sign of disruption in the US-Iraq relationship.
In recent years Russia has demonstrated its ability to turn such crises in Iraq into opportunities. In 2017, for example, Russian energy giant Rosneft expanded its operations in Iraqi Kurdistan amid tensions between Erbil and the central government over the independence referendum.
Uncertainty following the Soleimani killing may prompt Iraq to buy Russian anti-defence systems, whether the S-400 system or other models. Bagdad has already shown interest in buying Russia's systems. Talks first started in August last year following Israel's air raids against pro-Iran militias in Iraq.
More recently, PMF Commander Qais al-Khazali suggested Russia and China can replace US military support and advice in Iraq, an offer which will no doubt please the Kremlin.
The bottom line is that Moscow continues to demonstrate its ability to convert Washington's missteps in the region into political and diplomatic gains. Soleimani's assassinations brought tragedy to Iran and its fallout will pose new challenges to the Trump administration. For Russia, however, the Iranian commander's death means a fresh set of opportunities in Syria, Iraq and beyond.