Russia is Offering the US a Turkish “Olive Branch” in Afrin.

 

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Elijah J. Magnier | @ejmalrai

Turkey today launched the “Olive Branch” military operation against the Kurdish region of Afrin, north-west of Syria. The code name was released by the Turkish Chief of Staff who explained that the operation aims to prevent the spread of the People’s Protection Units and the Democratic Union Party along the Syrian borders with Turkey, which represented a menace to the Turkish national security. The US attitude towards the Kurds in Afrin was quite interesting, because the US General Vottel declared himself “not concerned about what is happening in the Kurdish enclave in the north-west of Syria” where Washington used the Kurds to attack ISIS. It is no longer surprising that the US look after its interests rather than its allies, as indeed happened in Kurdistan Iraq when Erbil declared its independence; it was promptly abandoned by the US.

But what are the details agreed before the beginning of the operation, allowing Turkey to venture into an area under the Russian control? And how did things get so far, pushing Turkey to venture into an area under Russian influence with military police, and following a clear threat from Damascus to shoot down any Turkish aircraft, with Russia strengthening its positions inside the city the day before the beginning of the Turkish operation “Olive Branch” against Afrin?

The Kurds fought under the guidance and control of US forces against ISIS in the north of Syria and suffered hundreds of dead from Manbaj to Dabak and even Raqqah. These joint US-Kurdish forces have also agreed with ISIS– following the total destruction of the city by the US Air Force – to secure the withdrawal of thousands of militants in exchange for leaving the ISIS capital, Raqqah, and delivering it without a fight. ISIS also agreed to leave the very rich energy field and other villages east of the Euphrates River to the US-Kurds forces. The Syrian army was trying to reach the oilfields when ISIS pulled out, and was offered a “buffer zone”  by the US along the borders as long as the militants limited their attacks towards Russian allies only (the Syrian army and its allies) and did not attack the Kurdish forces.

The US establishment declared its intention to stay in Syria despite the general defeat of ISIS (even if a pocket is still under the terrorist group’s control in the US-controlled area east of the Euphrates on the Syrian-Iraqi borders). The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the aim of its forces was to limit the Iranian influence, giving contradictory statements about the defeat and non-defeat of ISIS in Syria. This position was clear enough to Russia, that the US was aiming to challenge the Russian presence and to stay in a country which was under Moscow’s protection.

Moreover the US excuse to occupy part of the north-east of Syria to – according to Tillerson’s statement -“prevent Iran from spreading its influence” is not convincing because Iran’s presence in Syria goes back to 1982 and its influence has increased directly due to the six years of war.

Turkey was upset by the widespread Kurdish presence along its borders and asked the US to withdraw all lethal weapons from the Kurds. Washington promised to do so but Turkey discovered later that the US promise had not been fulfilled and that the Kurds were in possession of laser guided anti-tank missiles and anti-air missiles, representing a direct threat to the Turkish, Syrian and Russian forces.

Turkey demanded that Russia and Iran, in direct contact with Damascus, allow its troops to help to put an end to the US plans in Syria, further weakening the Kurds. Damascus asked Russia and Iran to give the Kurds the possibility to take distance from Washington by accepting the presence of the Syrian Army in the cities of Manbij and Afrin in the place of the Turkish invasion.

Turkey, despite the gathering of Turkish forces along the borders and its announcement of the beginning of the military operation, waited for the Russian/Iranian green light. Russian officials met with other Kurds to lay down the serious Turkish intention and a way out of the critical situation by forwarding Damascus’s proposition- that was rejected by Afrin, whose Officer in Charge maintained his belief in US support, apparently unwilling or unable to learn from what happened to the Iraqi Kurds at Erbil).

An undisclosed understanding was reached where Ankara stops providing support to al-Qaeda and its allies in Idlib, and no longer considers the Syrian Army operation east of Idlib and towards the city itself as a violation of the de-escalation agreement reached in Sochi last year. On the other hand, Russia will pull out its contingent from the city and will not interfere with the Turkish army “Olive Branch” operation.

The Syrian leadership and its allies asked Russian air support to open a corridor towards the two surrounded cities of Al-Fawa and Kafriya, besieged since the long years of war. However, the Russian leadership rejected the demand and asked them – to the surprise of Damascus and its allies – to be patient, because the goal is not only to liberate Al-Fu’a and Kafriya, but also the entire city of Idlib. The Russian President Vladimir Putin is determined to fight al-Qaeda in Syria to strengthen his country’s position in the world to fight terrorism.

As reported last year, and now confirmed, the Kurds of Syria and Iraq by relying on America and its volatile promises have now become the biggest losers in the Middle East, thanks to America’s inexperienced leadership and lack of stable understanding (and therefore credibility) in world affairs. The actual US leadership seems to rely heavily on military power as a way to maintain its influence: they apparently do not possess that ability, especially important in the Middle East, to weave alliances and strengthen friendships.

What is happening now is a very serious blow to the United States by its Turkish ally, a fellow member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Turkey is using the “olive branch” to strike America’s Kurdish ally below the belt, a further blow supported by Russia against the inexperienced US, who have unwisely decided to play in Moscow’s Syrian courtyard. America has no allies in Syria except the Kurds of the north-east in Hasaka and Deir al-Zour. But these allies are about to suffer more partition. This will leave the US occupation forces very vulnerable in an extremely hostile environment.

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THE SAKER: WHY IS PUTIN “ALLOWING” ISRAEL TO BOMB SYRIA?

South Front

18.01.2018

Written by The Saker; Originally appeared at The Unz Review

Informationclearinghouse recently posted an article by Darius Shahtahmasebi entitled “Israel Keeps Bombing Syria and Nobody Is Doing Anything About It”. Following this publication I received an email from a reader asking me the following question: “Putin permitting Israel to bomb Syria – why? I am confused by Putins actions – does Putin support the Zionist entity, on the quiet like. I would appreciate your feedback on this matter. Also – I have heard, but not been able to confirm, that the Russian Jewish immigrants to Occupied Palestines are the most ardent tormenters of the Palestinians – it takes quite some doing to get ahead of the likes of Netanyahu. Please comment“.  While in his article Darius Shahtahmasebi wonders why the world is not doing anything to stop the Israelis (“Why haven’t Iran, Syria, and/or Hezbollah in Lebanon responded directly?“), my reader is more specific and wonders why Putin (or Russia) specifically is not only “permitting” Israel to bomb Syria but even possibly “supporting” the Zionist Entity.

I often see that question in emails and in comments, so I wanted to address this issue today.

First, we need to look at some critical assumption implied by this question.  These assumptions are:

  1. That Russia can do something to stop the Israelis
  2. That Russia should (or even is morally obliged) to do something.

Let me begin by saying that I categorically disagree with both of these assumptions, especially the 2nd one.  Let’s take them one by one.

Assumption #1: Russia can stop the Israeli attacks on Syria

How?  I think that the list of options is fairly obvious here.  Russian options range from diplomatic action (such as private or public protests and condemnations, attempts to get a UNSC Resolution passed) to direct military action (shooting down Israeli aircraft, “painting” them with an engagement radar to try to scare them away or, at least, try to intercept Israeli missiles).

Trying to reason with the Israelis or get the to listen to the UN has been tried by many countries for decades and if there is one thing which is beyond doubt is that the Israelis don’t give a damn about what anybody has to say.  So talking to them is just a waste of oxygen.  What about threatening them?  Actually, I think that this could work, but at what risk and price?

First of all, while I always said that the IDF’s ground forces are pretty bad, this is not the case of their air forces.  In fact, their record is pretty good.  Now if you look at where the Russian air defenses are, you will see that they are all concentrated around Khmeimim and Tartus.  Yes, an S-400 has a very long range, but that range is dependent on many things including the size of the target, its radar-cross section, its electronic warfare capabilities, the presence of specialized EW aircraft, altitude, etc.  The Israelis are skilled pilots who are very risk averse so they are very careful about what they do.  Finally, the Israelis are very much aware of where the Russians are themselves and where there missiles are.  I think that it would be pretty safe to say that the Israelis make sure to keep a minimal safe distance between themselves and the Russians, if only to avoid any misunderstanding.   But let’s say that the Russians did have a chance to shoot down an Israeli aircraft – what would be the likely Israeli reaction to such a shooting?  In this article Darius Shahtahmasebi writes: “Is it because Israel reportedly has well over 200 nukes all “pointed at Iran,” and there is little Iran and its allies can do to take on such a threat?”  I don’t see the Israelis use nukes on Russian forces, however, that does in no way mean that the Russians when dealing with Israel should not consider the fact that Israel is a nuclear armed power ruled by racist megalomaniacs.  In practical terms this means this: “should Russia (or any other country) risk a military clash with Israel over a few destroyed trucks or a weapons and ammunition dump”?  I think that the obvious answer is clearly ‘no’.

While this is the kind of calculations the USA simply ignores (at least officially – hence all the saber-rattling against the DPRK), Russia is ruled by a sane and responsible man who cannot make it a habit of simply waltzing into a conflict hence the Russian decision not to retaliate in kind against the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 by the Turks.  If the Russians did not retaliate against the Turks shooting down one of their own aircraft, they sure ain’t gonna attack the Israelis when they attack a non-Russian target!

There are also simply factual issues to consider: even of some Russian air-defense systems are very advanced and could shoot down an X number of Israeli aircraft, they are nowhere near numerous enough to prevent the entire Israeli air force from saturating them.  In fact, both Israel and CENTCOM simply have such a numbers advantage over the relatively small Russian contingent that they both could over-run the Russian defenses, even if they would take losses in the process.

So yes, the Russian probably could stop one or a few Israeli attacks, but if the Israelis decided to engage in a sustained air campaign against targets in Syria there is nothing the Russians could do short of going to war with Israel.   So here again a very basic strategic principle fully applies: you never want to start an escalatory process you neither control nor can win.  Put simply this means: if the Russians shoot back – they lose and the Israelis win.  It’s really that simple and both sides know it (armchair strategist apparently don’t).

And this begs a critical look at the second assumption:

Assumption #2: Russia has some moral duty to stop the Israeli attacks on Syria

This is the one which most baffles me.  Why in the world would anybody think that Russia owes anybody anywhereon the planet any type of protection?!  For starters, when is the last time somebody came to the help of Russia?  I don’t recall anybody in the Middle-East offering their support to Russia in Chechnia, Georgia or, for that matter, the Ukraine!  How many countries in the Middle-East have recognized South Ossetia or Abkhazia (and compare that with the Kosovo case!)?  Where was the Muslim or Arab “help” or “friendship” towards Russia when sanctions were imposed and the price of oil dropped?  Remind me – how exactly did Russia’s “friends” express their support for Russia over, say, the Donbass or Crimea?

Can somebody please explain to me why Russia has some moral obligation towards Syria or Iran or Hezbollah when not a single Muslim or Arab country has done anything to help the Syrian government fight against the Takfiris?  Where is the Arab League!?  Where is the Organization of Islamic Cooperation?!

Is it not a fact that Russia has done more in Syria than all the countries of the Arab League and the OIC combined?!

Where do the Arab and Muslims of the Middle-East get this sense of entitlement which tells them that a faraway country which struggles with plenty of political, economic and military problems of its own has to do more than the immediate neighbors of Syria do?!

Putin is the President of Russia and he is first and foremost accountable to the Russian people to whom he has to explain every Russian casualty and even every risk he takes.  It seems to me that he is absolutely right when he acts first and foremost in defense of the people who elected him and not anybody else.

By the way – Putin was very clear about why he was ordering a (very limited) Russian military intervention in Syria: to protect Russian national interests by, for example, killing crazy Takfiris in Syria so as not to have to fight then in the Caucasus and the rest of Russia.  At no time and in no way did any Russian official refer to any kind of obligation of Russia towards Syria or any other country in the region.  True, Russia did stand by President Assad, but that was not because of any obligation towards him or his country, but because the Russians always insisted that he was the legitimate President of Syria and that only the Syrian people had the right to replace (or keep) him.  And, of course, it is in the Russian national interest to show that, unlike the USA, Russia stands by her allies.  But none of that means that Russia is now responsible for the protection of the sovereignty of the Syrian airspace or territory.

As far as I am concerned, the only country which has done even more than Russia for Syria is Iran and, in lieu of gratitude the Arab countries “thank” the Iranians by conspiring against them with the USA and Israel.  Hassan Nasrallah is absolutely spot on when the calls all these countries traitors and collaborators of the AngloZionist Empire.

There is something deeply immoral and hypocritical in this constant whining that Russia should do more when in reality Russia and Iran are the only two countries doing something meaningful (and Hezbollah, of course!).

Now let me address a few typical questions:

Question #1: but aren’t Syria, Iran and Hezbollah Russian allies?

Yes and no.  Objectively – yes.  Formally – no.  What this means is that while these three entities do have some common objectives, they are also independent and they all have some objectives not shared by others.  Furthermore, they have no mutual defense treaty and this is why neither Syria, nor Iran nor Hezbollah retaliated against Turkey when the Turks shot down the Russian SU-24.  While some might disagree, I would argue that this absence of a formal mutual defense treaty is a very good thing if only because it prevents Russian or Iranian forces in Syria from becoming “tripwire” forces which, if attacked, would require an immediate response.  In a highly dangerous and explosive situation like the Middle-East the kind of flexibility provided by the absence any formal alliances is a big advantage for all parties involved.

Question #2 : does that mean that Russia is doing nothing or even supporting Israel?

Of course not!  In fact, Netanyahu even traveled to Moscow to make all sorts of threats and he returned home with nothing (Russian sources even report that the Israelis ended up shouting at their Russian counterparts).  Let’s restate here something which ought to be obvious to everybody: the Russian intervention in Syria was an absolute, total and unmitigated disaster for Israel (I explain that in detail in this article).  If the Russians had any kind of concern for Israelis interests they would never have intervened in Syria in the first place!  However, that refusal to let Israel dictate Russian policies in the Middle-East (or elsewhere) does not at all mean that Russia can simply ignore the very real power of the Israelis, not only because of their nukes, but also because of their de-facto control of the US government.

Question #3: so what is really going on between Russia and Israel?

As I have explained elsewhere, the relationship between Russia and Israel is a very complex and multi-layered one and nothing between those two countries is really black or white.  For one thing, there is a powerful pro-Israel lobby in Russia at which Putin has been chipping away over the years, but only in very small and incremental steps.  The key for Putin is to do what needs to be done to advance Russian interests but without triggering an internal or external political crisis.  This is why the Russians are doing certain things, but rather quietly.

First, they are re-vamping the aging Syrian air defenses not only with software updates, but also with newer hardware.  They are also, of course, training Syrian crews.  This does not mean that the Syrians could close their skies to Israeli aircraft, but that gradually the risks of striking Syria would go up and up with each passing month.  First, we would not notice this, but I am confident that a careful analysis of the types of targets the Israelis will strike will go down and further down in value meaning the Syrians will become more and more capable of defending their most important assets.

Second, it is pretty obvious that Russia, Iran and Hezbollah are working synergistically.  For example, the Russians and the Syrians have integrated their air defenses which means that now the Syrians can “see” much further than their own radars would allow them to.  Furthermore, consider the number of US cruise missiles which never made it to the Syrian air base Trump wanted to bomb: it is more or less admitted by now that this was the result of Russian EW countermeasures.

Finally, the Russians are clearly “covering” for Hezbollah and Iran politically by refusing to consider them as pariahs which is what Israel and the USA have been demanding all along.  This is why Iran is treated as a key-player by the Russian sponsored peace process while the USA and Israel are not even invited.

So the truth of the matter is simple: the Russians will not directly oppose the Israelis, but what they will do is quietly strengthen Iran and Hezbollah, which is not only much safer but also much more effective.

Conclusion

We live in a screw-up and dysfunctional society which following decades of US domination conflates war and aggression with strength, which implicitly accepts the notion that a “great country” is one which goes on some kind of violent rampage on a regular basis and which always resorts to military force to retaliate against any attack.  I submit that the Russian and Iranian leaders are much more sophisticated then that.  The same goes for the Hezbollah leadership, by the way.  Remember when the Israelis (with the obvious complicity of some members of the Syrian regime, by the way) murdered Imad Mughniyeh?  Hezbollah promised to retaliate, but so far, almost a decade later, they have not (or, at least, not officially).  Some will say that Hezbollah’s threats were empty words – I totally disagree.  When Hassan Nasrallah promises something you can take it to the bank.  But Hezbollah leaders are sophisticated enough to retaliate when the time is right and on their own terms.  And think about the Iranians who since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 have been in the crosshairs of both the USA and Israel and who never gave either one of them the pretext to strike.

When you are much more powerful than your opponent you can be stupid and reply on brute, dumb force.  At least for the short to middle term.  Eventually, as we see with the USA today, this kind of aggressive stupidity backfires and ends up being counterproductive.  But when you are smaller, weaker or even just still in the process of recovering your potential strength you have to act with much more caution and sophistication.  This is why all the opponents of the AngloZionist Empire (including Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, Venezuela) do their utmost to avoid using force against the AngloZionists even when it would be richly deserved.  The one exception to this rule is Kim Jong-un who has chosen a policy of hyperinflated threats which, while possibly effective (he seems to have outwitted Trump, at least so far) is also very dangerous and one which none of the Resistance countries want to have any part in.

The Russians, Iranians and Hezbollah are all “grown adults” (in political terms), and Assad is learning very fast, and they all understand that they are dealing with a “monkey with a hand grenade” (this fully applies to both Israeli and US leaders) which combines a nasty personality, a volatile temper,  a primitive brain and a hand grenade big enough to kill everybody in the room.  Their task is to incapacitate that monkey without having it pull the pin.  In the case of the Israeli strikes on Syria, the primary responsibility to respond in some manner would fall either on the target of the strikes (usually Hezbollah) or on the nation whose sovereignty was violated (Syria).  And both could, in theory, retaliate (by using tactical missiles for example).  Yet they chose not to, and that is the wise and correct approach.  As for the Russians, this is simply and plainly not their business.

Addendum 1:

One more thing.  Make no mistake – the Israeli (and US!) propensity to use force as a substitute for diplomacy is a sign of weakness, not of strength.  More, accurately, their use of force, or the threat of force, is the result of their diplomatic incompetence.  While to the unsophisticated mind the systematic use of force might appear as an expression of power, history shows that brute force can be defeated when challenged not directly, but by other means.  This is, by necessity, a slow process, much slower than a (mostly entirely theoretical) “quick victory”, but an ineluctable one nonetheless.  In purely theoretical terms, the use of force can roughly have any one of the following outcomes: defeat, stalemate, costly victory and a relatively painless victory.  That last one is exceedingly rare and the use of force mostly results in one of the other outcomes.  Sometimes the use of force is truly the only solution, but I submit that the wise political leader will only resort to it when all other options have failed and when vital interests are at stake.  In all  other situation a “bad peace is preferable to a good war”.

Addendum 2:

Contrary to the hallucinations of the Neocons, Russia is absolutely not a “resurgent USSR” and Putin has no desire whatsoever to rebuilt the Soviet Union.  Furthermore, there is no meaningful constituency in Russia for any such “imperial” plans (well, there are always some lunatics everywhere, but in Russia they are, thank God, a tiny powerless minority).  Furthermore, the new Russia is most definitely not an “anti-USA” in the sense of trying to counter every US imperial or hegemonic move.  This might be obvious to many, but I get so many questions about why Russia is not doing more to counter the USA in Africa, Latin America or Asia that I feel that it is, alas, still important to remind everybody of a basic principle of international law and common sense: problems in country X are for country X to deal with.  Russia has no more business than the USA in “solving” country X’s problems.  Furthermore, country X’s problems are usually best dealt with by country X’s immediate neighbors, not by megalomaniacal messianic superpowers who feel that they ought to “power project” because they are somehow “indispensable” or because “manifest destiny” has placed upon them the “responsibility” to “lead” the world.  All this terminology is just the expression of a pathological and delusional imperial mindset which has cost Russia and the Soviet Union an absolutely horrendous price in money, energy, resources and blood (for example, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was justified in terms of the “internationalist duty” of the Soviet Union and people to help a “brotherly nation”).  While this kind of nonsense is still 100% mainstream in the poor old USA, it is absolutely rejected in modern Russia.  For all the personal credibility of Putin with the Russian people, even he could not get away with trying to militarily intervene, nevemind police the whole planet, unless truly vital Russian interests were threatened (Crimea was such a very rare case).  Some will deplore this, I personally very much welcome it, but the truth is that “the Russians are *not* coming”.

Destroying Syria, Why does Washington hate Bashar al-Assad?

Destroying Syria

Why does Washington hate Bashar al-Assad?
Bashar

The Donald Trump administration is planning to install a 30,000 strong armed “security force” in northern Syria along the borders with Turkey and Iraq. This presumably will tie together and support the remaining rag-tags of allegedly pro-democracy rebels and will fit in with existing and proposed U.S. bases. The maneuver is part of a broader plan to restructure Syria to suit the usual crop of neocon geniuses in Washington that have slithered their way back into the White House and National Security Council, to include renewed demands that the country’s President Bashar al-Assad “must go,” reiterated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Wednesday. He said “But let us be clear: The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS cannot re-emerge.”

Tillerson also claimed that remaining in Syria would prevent Iran from “reinforcing” its position inside Syria and would enable the eventual ouster of al-Assad, but he has also denied that Washington was creating a border force at all, yet another indication of the dysfunction in the White House.

A plan pulled together in Washington by people who should know better but seemingly don’t is hardly a blueprint for success, particularly as there is no path to anything approximating “victory” and no exit strategy. The Syrians have not been asked if they approve of an arrangement that will be put in place in their sovereign territory and the Turks have already bombed targets and sent troops and allied militias into the Afrin region, also a U.S. supported Kurdish enclave on the border. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has indicated clearly that Ankara will disrupt any U.S. devised border arrangement. From the Turkish point of view the border security force, which reportedly will largely consist of Kurdish militiamen, will inevitably work in cooperation with the Kurdish terrorist group PKK which is active on the Turkish side of the border, in seeking to create an autonomous Kurdish state, which Turkey reasonably enough regards as an existential threat.

And then there is one other little complication, which is that the United States presence in Syria is completely illegal both under international law and under the U.S. government’s War Powers Act. Syria is a sovereign state with a recognized government and there is no U.N. or Congressional mandate that permits Washington to station its soldiers, Marines and airmen within the country’s borders. The argument that the recent Authorizations to Use Military Force (AUMF) permitted the activity because groups linked to al-Qaeda were active there and the local government was unable to expel them is only thinly credible as the U.S. has also attacked Syrian Army forces and the militiamen linked to Syria’s ally Iran. That constitutes a war crime.

Trump can under the War Powers Act take military action to counter an imminent threat, which was never the case from Syria in any event, but after 60 days he has to cease or desist or go to Congress for authorization up to and possibly including a declaration of war. The military offensive against Syria began under President Barack Obama and it is far beyond that two-month window already, so egregiously in violation that some Congressmen are actually beginning to take notice. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia has demanded that no military initiatives in Syria be undertaken without a Senate vote. He said on Thursday that“I am deeply alarmed that yet again, the Trump administration continues to raise the risk of unnecessary war, disconnected from any firm policy objectives and core national security interests. To be clear, neither the 2001 or 2002 AUMFs provide authority to target Assad or Iranian proxies in Syria, and it is unacceptable for this action to be taken absent a vote and approval of Congress.”

The animus against Syria runs deep, to include questionable claims from generally hostile sources that al-Assad has deliberately massacred hundreds of thousands of his own people as well as dubious assertations about the use of chemical weapons that led to a U.S. cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat. A perfect example of how brain dead the western media is over the issue was provided by last week’s article by David Brunnstrom of Reuters on the Tillerson speech, where he wrote “U.S. forces in Syria have already faced direct threats from Syrian and Iranian-backed forces, leading to the shoot-down of Iranian drones and a Syrian jet last year, as well as to tensions with Russia.” The uninformed reader would assume that Americans were the victims of an attack and aggression by Moscow whereas the reality is quite different. Iran and Russia are allies of the legitimate Syrian government that are in the country by invitation to help in its fight against groups that everyone acknowledges to be terrorists. The United States is there illegally and is as often as not using its proxies to fight the Syrian Army.

Syria-phobia goes back to the George W. Bush Administration in December 2003, when Congress passed the Syria Accountability Act, House Resolution 1828. Syria at that time was already in the cross-hairs of two principal American so-called allies in the region, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both were actively working to destabilize the regime, though for different reasons. The Saudis were fearful of Iranian influence over Damascus but also had a religious agenda in that the secular Syrian regime was protective of religious minorities and was itself an offshoot of Shi’a Islam referred to as Alawites. The Saudis considered them to be heretics.

The Israelis for their part were enamored of the Yinon Plan of 1982 and the Clean Break proposals made in 1996 by a team of Jewish American neocons. Their intention was to transform most of Israel’s neighboring Arab states into warring tribes and ethnicities so they would no longer be a threat. Israeli leaders have stated openly that they would prefer continued chaos in Syria, which remains a prime target. Israel is, in fact, currently bombing Syrian Army positions, most recently near Damascus, while also supporting the ISIS and al-Nusra Front remnants.

The Syrian Accountability Act does indeed read at times like the completely bogus indictment of Saddam Hussein that had led to the invasion of Iraq earlier in 2003. It cites development of weapons of mass destruction and missiles, but its main focus is related to the alleged support of terrorist groups by Damascus. It “Declares the sense of Congress that the Government of Syria should immediately and unconditionally halt support for terrorism, permanently and openly declare its total renunciation of all forms of terrorism, and close all terrorist offices and facilities in Syria, including the offices of Hamas, Hizballah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command.”

One might note that the groups cited by name are not identified as being a threat to the United States. Rather, they are organizations hostile to Israel, which suggests that the motivation for the bill was the usual dominant pro-Israeli sentiment in Congress. The bill’s sponsor was Eliot Engel of New York, a passionately pro-Israeli legislator.

Be that as it may, the drive to “get” Syria has remained a constant in American Foreign Policy to this day. When the U.S. still had an Embassy in Damascus, in December 2010 President Barack Obama maladroitly sent as Ambassador Robert Ford. Ford actively supported the large demonstrations by anti-regime Syrians inspired by the Arab Spring who were opposed to the al-Assad government and he might even have openly advocated an armed uprising, a bizarre interpretation of what Ambassadors are supposed to do in a foreign country. He once stated absurdly that if the U.S. had armed opponents of the regime, al-Qaeda groups would have been “unable to compete.” Ford was recalled a year later, after being pelted by tomatoes and eggs, over concerns that his remaining in country might not be safe, but the damage had been done and normal diplomatic relations between Damascus and Washington have never been restored.

The desire to bring about regime change in Damascus gathered considerable steam in 2011. Harsh government efforts to repress the demonstrations that did take place inevitably led to violence in both directions and the United States, Saudis and the Gulf States subsequently began to arm the rebels and support the formation of the Free Syrian Army, which Washington assured the American public consisted of only good people who wanted democracy and fundamental rights. To no one’s surprise many of the fledgling democrats accepted U.S. training and weapons before defecting to the al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front or to ISIS.

Currently, the reconstruction of Syria is proceeding. The Syrian Arab Army is wiping out the last few enclaves controlled by ISIS in Idlib Province and the so-called Syrian Civil War will soon be over but for the mopping up. Many internal refugees have returned to their homes after the government reasserted control and also thousands who fled overseas have reportedly come back. Note that they are returning to areas where the al-Assad government is firmly in charge, perhaps suggesting that, while there were legitimate grievances among the Syrian people, the propaganda insisting that most Syrians were opposed to the regime was grossly overstated. There is considerable evidence that Bashar al-Assad is actually supported by a large majority of the Syrian people, even among those who would welcome more democracy, because they know the alternative to him is chaos.

One would like to think that Syria might again be Syria but Washington is baying for blood and clearly would like to see a solution that involves a fragmentation of the state enabling containment and rollback of Iranian influence there while also satisfying both its clients Israel and the Saudis as well as creating a possible mini-state for the Kurds. The destruction of Syria and the Syrian people will just be regarded as collateral damage while building a new Middle East. Hopefully the Syrians, backed by Iran, Russia and China will prevent that from happening and as the U.S. did not directly engage in much of the hard fighting that destroyed ISIS, it thankfully has little leverage over what comes next.

Whether it is the Riyadh or Tel Aviv leading Washington by the nose is somehow irrelevant as the blame for what is taking place is squarely on the White House. The United States has no coherent policy, nor any actual national interest in remaining in Syria, but the strange political alignments that appear to be playing out in and around the Oval Office have generated a desire to destroy a country and people that in no way threaten the U.S. Someone should remind the president that similar scenarios did not turn out very well in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. No one should expect that Syria will be any different.

US secrets, lies and confusion in the North of Syria

Source

by Thierry Meyssan
The announcements and denials of the Trump administration concerning military developments in the North of Syria reveal a heavy secret. Paradoxically, Turkey has come to the assistance of the United States to correct « the error » of their superior officers.

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Brett McGurk

The denial expressed on 17 January by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concerning the declarations of the commander-in-chief of CentCom, General Joseph Votel, on 23 December, and of the spokesman of the anti-Daesh Coalition, Colonel Thomas Veale, on 13 January, has sowed confusion.

The denial did not satisfy Turkey who, after having warned the US Chargé d’Affaires, Philip Kosnett, on the 10 January, and on 13 January, began preparing military operations in Afrine and Manbij, effectively launched them on 20 January.

Contrary to the declarations proffered by various participants, the US programme was not intended to create a sovereign, independent State in the North of Syria — that is the French plan — but a non-recognised State, like the Puntland State of Somalia or the Iraqi Kurdistan. The latter structure is absolutely independent, and despite the Iraqi Constitution, does not respond to orders from Iraq, of which it is nonetheless a part. Iraqi Kurdistan also has its own embassies abroad.

The Syrian Border Security Force should officially be composed of 30,000 men, half of whom should be ex-Democratic Syrian Forces. These combatants should receive three weeks of training in interrogation techniques and biometric scanning. 230 cadets have already followed this course.

In practice, the other half should be composed of 15,000 ex-jihadists from Daesh who would thus be discretely recycled.

In reality, President Trump’s special representative to the Coalition, Brett McGurk, was the lawyer who participated, alongside John Negroponte and Colonel James Steele, in the creation of the Islamic Emirate in Iraq in 2006. With Colonel James Coffman, he was tasked with giving President George Bush an account of this secret operation, which was intended to combat the Iraqi resistance to the occupation by dividing their forces into Sunnis and Chiites, and artificially creating a civil war.

After a passage at Harvard, Brett McGurk was re-assigned to the State Department under John Kerry. He helped with transforming the Islamic Emirate in Iraq into Daesh, and co-organised the preparatory meeting for the jihadist invasion of Iraq, on 27 May 2014 in Amman. He reorganised Iraq, then trained the International Coalition which was tasked with fighting … Daesh.

A good student, McGurk agreed to serve President Trump in order to get rid of the jihadist organisation that he had himself created, and some of whose members he is now attempting to recycle.

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On 18 August last, Brett McGurk offered a friendly reception to the leaders of Daesh, although officially, the United States was preparing to crush the jihadist organisation.

The project of the Syrian Border Security Force has a lot to say about the sincerity of the YPG militia, which professes the gentle anarchy of Murray Boochkin, but which, without hesitation, are ready to form a single unit with the killers of Daesh under US command.

Contrary to appearances, the Turkish attack on Afrine, and probably soon on Mambij, was approved on 8 and 19 January by the Russian military staff, which was alerted by the number 2 of the régime and head of the secret services, the director of the MIT (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı), Hakan Fidan, who journeyed specially to Moscow for this reason. The attack was facilitated by the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from the combat zone.

Identically, Turkey informed Syria of the attack in writing, even if Damascus claimed that it had not received the letter.

President el-Assad, who can not place his country in confrontation with the United States in order to stop the recycling of the jihadists, left Turkey, a member of NATO, to deal with it.

President Trump had not been informed about the Votel-McGurk plan. The Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, confirmed to his men the instructions of the White House concerning the jihadists. However, Votel and McGurk are still in place.

USA a totally unreliable ally. How US went from supporting Syrian Kurds, to backing Turkey against them – in just 9 days

How US went from supporting Syrian Kurds, to backing Turkey against them – in just 9 days

How US went from supporting Syrian Kurds, to backing Turkey against them – in just 9 days

The Four Fighting In Efrain الأربعة الذين يتقاتلون في عفرين

الأربعة الذين يتقاتلون في عفرين

يناير 22, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– بعيداً من التوصيفات التحليلية والتركيبية التي تحاول رسم صورة مشهد حرب ذات أبعاد استراتيجية وتبحث لها عن أسماء ووظائف، تبدو الحرب الدائرة في عفرين ببساطة حرباً يشارك فيها مباشرة وغير مباشرة الجانب الأميركي الذي يدعم الجماعات الكردية، ويتخذها كغطاء لبقاء قواته في شمال سورية، ويؤسس عليها ما وصفه وزيرا خارجية ودفاع أميركا، باستراتيجية مواجهة الدورين الروسي والصيني في المنطقة، ومنع التمدّد أمام النفوذ الإيراني. ويبدو بحكم أهمية عفرين للجانب الكردي، وأهميتها المقابلة للجانب التركي، سيكون صعباً رغم كلام واشنطن عن وقوع عفرين خارج نطاق مناطق عمل قواتها، التهوين من نتائج هذه الحرب على قوة الأكراد من جهة، وقوة التغطية التي يقدمونها للدور الأميركي من جهة مقابلة. فالحرب ستكون وقريباً حرباً تركية كردية وجودية، وسيكون الأميركيون متأثرين بنتائجها حكماً، حتى لو نجحوا بالبقاء خارج التورّط بنيرانها.

– الطرف الثاني المنخرط في هذه الحرب هو الجماعات المسلحة التي تعمل في شمال سورية تحت العباءة التركية، والتي تضم آلاف المسلحين الإسلاميين الذين رفعوا راية جبهة النصرة مرة وفيلق الرحمن مرة وأحرار الشام مرة والجيش الحر مرات. ومن الواضح أن الجهد البري في الحرب التي يخوضها الأتراك يقع على عاتق هذه الجماعات، التي تقول إن من أولى نتائج حشودها للشراكة في حرب عفرين كان سرعة خسارتها مواقعها في ريف إدلب، وهو ما سيتكرّر في معارك إدلب المستمرة، وبحكم حجم التعبئة الوجودية التي تقوم بها الجماعات الكردية من جهة، وخبراتها القتالية ونوعية تسليحها من جهة مقابلة، فسيكون لحرب عفرين دور تدميري لقدرات قتالية حقيقية للجماعات المسلحة التي يشغلها الأتراك بديلاً عن جيشهم في الميدان، وسيكون طبيعياً أن تنتهي هذه الحرب، وقد فقد الأتراك الشريك السوري الذي كانوا يستعدون لدخول المعادلة السياسية السورية بواسطته، أو خسر هذا الشريك الكثير من عناصر قوته.

– الطرف الثالث الذي يشكّل عنوان الحرب هو الجماعات الكردية نفسها. وهي تدرك أن العناد والحال المعنوية، بعد الدعم الأميركي المعلن والمبالغات بحجم التسليح والقدرات من جهة، والنصر على داعش من جهة أخرى، ليسا وحدهما سبب الطابع الوجودي لهذه الحرب. فالقيادة الكردية تدرك أن حربها مع الأتراك هي التي ستقول كلمة الفصل حول مستقبل تطلعهم لكيان كردي أو لفدرالية، أو لتفرض عليهم نتائجها ما هو أقل من ذلك بكثير، ولذلك فإن الجانب الكردي سيرمي بثقله للفوز بالصمود في عفرين، بالقدر الذي يحتاج لفرض معادلة الكيان المستقلّ أو الفدرالية، ولن ينهزم وينسحب إلا وقد بلغ حد القبول بالاستسلام، بما يعنيه التخلي عن حلم الكيان أو الفدرالية، سواء لحساب تفاهم مع الدولة السورية ينتهي بحماية المناطق الكردية أو ينتهي لحساب الانسحاب من الحرب كلها.

– الطرف الرابع الشريك هو الذي بادر لشن الحرب، وهو تركيا، التي شعرت مع نهاية داعش وتقدّم الجيش السوري بدعم روسي إيراني في إدلب أنها ما لم تبادر لفرض معادلة جديدة مع الأكراد فستفرض عليها معادلة معاكسة بقوة الدعم الأميركي والتفهم الروسي الذي يلقاه الأكراد، ولذلك سيضطر الأتراك لرفع أهمية الحرب إلى درجة عالية ويضعون ثقلهم السياسي والدبلوماسي والعسكري للفوز بها، لكنهم سيجدون أنفسهم أمام كتل صلبة قادرة على الصمود، وأمام جدار سياسي ليس سهلاً تخطيه، ما سيجعل الحرب استنزافاً عسكرياً سياسياً لمكانة تركيا ودورها ومصادر قوتها.

– الأطراف الأربعة المنخرطون في الحرب تشاركوا بأعمال ومواقف عدائية بحق سورية، ولم يتوانوا عن تبادل المواقع والتعاون والتقاتل لحسابات تنتهك مصالح سورية وسيادتها ووحدتها، ولذلك تبدو الحرب عقاباً يقدمه التاريخ والجغرافيا لكل الذين عبثوا بأمن سورية، ويحق لسورية أن تكتفي بموقف مبدئي وتترك التاريخ والجغرافيا يتصرفان، لأن الحصيلة ستكون بالتأكيد لصالح سورية، التي ستشكل في نهاية حرب الاستنزاف الراهنة خشبة الخلاص التي يحتاج الجميع الاحتماء بتوليها أمن الحدود السورية وأمن المناطق السورية، ولن يجد أحد مبرراً لبقاء قواته فوق الأراضي السورية.

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العدوان التركي.. توافق دولي

يناير 22, 2018

نظام مارديني

هل دخلت أزمة عفرين على الملف السوري المزدحم أساساً بجملة من الأزمات عنوة من قِبل الفخّ الأميركي بإنشاء جيش مكوّن من أغلبية كرديّة بزعم نشره على الحدود السورية التركية؟!

توغّل القوات التركية بعِدّتها وعديدها إلى عمق الشمال السوري هي خطوة مثيرة ودافعة للتساؤلات، وما يزيد من هذه المفاجئة انسحاب الشرطة العسكريّة الروسيّة التي كانت وُضعت لحماية مكتب المصالحة الذي كان قائماً في تلك المنطقة، وما يضيف إلى هذه المفاجأة إعلان البنتاغون أنّه يتفهّم الهواجس التركيّة، وقد استتبع ذلك تصريح المتحدّث بِاسم الدفاع الأميركية، اريك باهون، عشيّة انطلاق عملية ما يسمّى بـ»غصن الزيتون»، أنّ تركيا دولة حليفة لبلاده، وعملية عفرين لن تتسبّب بالفوضى أو انهيار علاقات الولايات المتحدة وأنقرة، كما أنّها لن تؤدّي إلى صراع إقليمي، ولعلّ تصريح الخارجية الإيرانية يؤكّد ذلك حيث أعربت طهران عن قلقها إزاء عملية الجيش التركي العسكريّة في مدينة عفرين شمال سورية، ودعت أنقرة إلى إنهاء عمليّتها «غصن الزيتون» بشكلٍ عاجل!

هكذا إذاً جاء الضوء الأخضر من قِبل «لاعبين أساسيّين» في الأزمة السوريّة، ولكلا «اللاعبين» دوافعه المختلفة في هذا العدوان، فمكتب «حميميم» كان يقود حتى الساعات الأخيرة من منتصف ليل الجمعة النقاش مع مسؤولين من «وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية»، القوة القائمة بفعل الأمر الواقع في منطقة عفرين، وكان الحوار يدور حول أهميّة دخول مؤسسات الدولة السورية لتلك المنطقة ورفع العلم السوريّ، كي تكون المواجهة شاملة مع قوات الاحتلال التركي وميليشياتها العميلة والخائنة. ولكن كما عُلم، فقد رفض آلدار خليل، القيادي في حركة المجتمع الديمقراطي الكرديّة، هذا الطلب، ما دفع الشرطة الروسية للانسحاب من تلك المنطقة فجر السبت.

صحيح أنّ لعبة الدبلوماسية لا تحتاج إلى الجنون كثيراً، قدر حاجتها للعقل ولو قليلاً، إلّا أنّ رهان «وحدات حماية الشعب الكرديّة» على أوهام القوة لصدّ العدوان التركي وتحريك العالم، أوقعهم بالخطأ الذي وقع به في البداية رئيس إقليم كردستان السابق مسعود البرزاني، الذي كان أكثر ذكاءً منهم وطالب قوات «البيشمركة» بعدم مواجة القوات العراقية وبالانسحاب من المناطق التي كانت تسيطر عليها بعد 2003، وذلك بعدما تبيّن للبرزاني تخلّي الأميركيّين والأوربيين عن دعمه وتركه يواجه مصيره لوحده أمام القوّات العراقيّة.

لا تسطيع «وحدات حماية الشعب الكردية» المراهنة على أوهام مواجهة العدوان التركي لوحدهم، فهي ليست معركتهم فقط، بل هي من المفترض أن تكون معركة السوريّين جميعاً في مواجهة الجيش التركي وعملائه، ولذلك ليس أمام «وحدات الحماية» الآن غير التنسيق مع الجيش السوري وإعادة مؤسسات الدولة لممارسة مهامّها في تلك المنطقة، فهي الغطاء الشرعي الوحيد لكافّة الأراضي السورية.

سيبقى الرئيس التركي رجب طيب أردوغان مراهناً على أوهامه التي أفضت به إلى حماقات هذا العدوان، وإلى المزيد من الشطط والخسارات لأنقرة، وهي إذ تتدحرج إلى النار بقدميها! وبهذا المعنى ينطبق توصيف الجنون على أردوغان، بعدما وضع عقله في «المزبلة» وراح يصطنع للجنون بطولات وأوهاماً، حدّ التورّط في عدوان جديد وقذر ضدّ بلادنا وشعبنا.

يقول ماكيافيلي في كتابه «الأمير»: «على المرء أن يكون ثعلباً ليعي الفخاخ المنصوبة له، وأن يكون أسداً ليرهب الذئاب»، بمعنى أن يكون قادراً على استخدام الحيلة والقوة للوصول إلى الغاية، بعيداً عن المعايير الأخلاقية.

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