Turkey Will Get a Chunk of Syria: An Advantage of Being in NATO

Source

July 14, 2019

by Eric Zuesse for The Saker Blog

The success of Turkey’s takeover of Syria’s most pro-jihadist province, Idlib, is making less and less likely that Syria will be able to continue maintaining Idlib as being a part of Syria. (This is something I had predicted, back on 14 September 2018, to be possible or even likely, and now it is actually happening.) On July 10th, Reuters headlined “Assad hits a wall in Syrian war as front lines harden”, and reported that, “More than two months of Russian-backed operations in and around Idlib province have yielded little or nothing for Assad’s side. It marks a rare case of a military campaign that has not gone his way since Russia intervened in 2015. While resisting government attacks, the insurgents have managed to carve out small advances of their own, drawing on ample stocks of guided anti-tank missiles that opposition and diplomatic sources say have been supplied by Turkey.” It continues:

Moscow has appeared keen to preserve its ties with Ankara even as its air force bombs in support of Assad: Turkey says Russia has intervened to stop attacks on Turkish forces from Syrian government-held territory. … The Idlib area is dominated by Tahrir al-Sham, the jihadists formerly known as the Nusra Front. [And before that, they were called Al Qaeda in Syria, but Western news-agencies, such as Reuters, prefer not to mention that fact, especially because the U.S. used_Nusra to train ‘our’ proxy boots-on-the-ground ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria to bring down Syria’s Government. Elsewhere, the Reuters article calls them ‘insurgents’.] Some 300,000 people fleeing bombardment have moved toward the Turkish border since April, prompting the United Nations to warn that Idlib was on the brink of a “humanitarian nightmare”.

For Ankara, the Syrian opposition’s last major state sponsor, preventing another major influx of Syrian refugees is of paramount importance: Turkey already hosts 3.6 million of them. …

A Russian private military contractor who was based near Idlib province told Reuters that rebel fighters there are far more professional and motivated than their adversary. Pro-government forces cannot win the battle for Idlib unless Moscow helps them on the ground, he said. …

Of course the regime [that’s the legitimate Government, but Western ‘news’-agencies such as Reuters call it ‘the regime’, and most of their audience don’t even recognize that their own intelligence has just been insulted by calling Syria’s Government a ‘regime’ while calling the invading regimes, Turkey and U.S., not that] has the desire to recover Idlib by force [as if the sovereign Government of Syria doesn’t have this right], but … without the Russians it can’t[those nasty Russians, who are defending Syria from U.S.-Saud-backed proxy-armies that are led mostly by Al Qaeda in Syria], because there are many militants and the Russians are completely committed to the Turks,” the source said.

Syria’s Government is fighting hard against jihadist forces in Idlib who meet Turkey’s standard of being ‘moderate rebels’ against Syria’s Government, but unless Russian forces there — which were invited in by Syria’s Government, instead of being invaders there like Turkey and the United States are — will commit far more forces for the defense of Syria (which seems increasingly unlikely), Turkey will win Idlib as being a part of Turkey.

Consequently, Turkey is already starting to build infrastructure even immediately to the north and east of Idlib in order to stake its claim to a yet larger portion of Syria than just Idlib. This might not have been part of the deal that was worked out by Russia’s Putin, Iran’s Rouhani, and Turkey’s Erdogan, in Tehran, on 9 September 2018, which agreement allowed Turkey only to take over — and only on a temporary basis — Idlib province, which is by far the most pro-jihadist (and the most anti-Assad) of Syria’s 14 provinces. Turkey was instead supposed to hold it only temporarily, but the exact terms of the Turkey-Russia-Iran agreement have never been publicly disclosed.

Until that 9 September 2018 Tehran conference, Idlib had been the province to which Syria’s Government was busing defeated jihadists who had surrendered instead of choosing to stay and die where they were. Syria’s Government had given its surrounded jihadists this final option, in order to reduce as much as possible the numbers of jihadists’ civilian hostages who would also likely be killed in an all-out bombing campaign there. So, the existing population of Idlib, which was already the most pro-jihadist in Syria, was now starting to overflow with the additional thousands of defeated jihadists who had chosen to surrender instead of to be immediately killed.

At that time, just prior to the Tehran conference — and this was actually the reason why the conference was held — the U.S. and its allies, and the U.N., were demanding that an all-out invasion of Idlib, which had been planned by the Governments of Syria and of Russia, must not take place, for ‘humanitarian’ reasons. There was all that ‘humanitarian’ concern (led by the United States) for the world’s biggest concentration of Nusra and Nusra-led jihadists — and for Syria’s most jihadist-supporting civilian population. So much ‘kindness’, such ‘admirable’ ‘humanitarianism’. Furthermore the U.S. Government was threatening to greatly increase its forces against Syria if that invasion by Syria and by Russia into Idlib (which is, after all, part of Syria — so, what business is it, even of the U.N., at all?) were to be carried out. The Tehran conference was meeting in order to resolve that emergency situation (mainly America’s threats of a possible war against Russia), so as to forestall this attack.

However, now that it’s clear that Erdogan will not  follow through on his generally understood promise that this would be only a temporary military occupation of Idlib, the question is: what can Syria and Russia and Iran do to keep Idlib inside Syria, and whether they even want to do so. If Syria loses those jihadists, then not only will it lose the perhaps hundred thousand surviving jihadists there — many of whom came from other countries in order to fight against Syria’s secular Government — but also will lose some of those Idlib natives, who were always against Syria’s secular Government. Since those people would no longer be voting against Bashar al-Assad, because they would become Turks, this would actually be a Syrian political advantage for Assad. Yet, he has been resisting it, in order to hold Syria together. He has always been committed to holding Syria together.

Turkey’s negotiating position is exceptionally strong, because Turkey now is riding the fence between the U.S. alliance, NATO (of which Turkey has been the only predominantly Muslim member ever since it joined in 1952), versus Russia. According to a major report in English from Iran’s Fars News Agency — which had translated from published Arab sources in many countries and which report hasn’t been denied by any of them — Russia had saved Erdogan’s life on 15 June 2016, when there was a coup-attempt to get rid of him. Headlining on 20 July, just five days after the failed coup, “Erdogan Warned of Incoming Coup by Russian Alert”, Fars said that,

Several Arab media outlets, including Rai Alyoum, quoted diplomatic sources in Ankara as saying that Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, known locally as the MIT, received intel from its Russian counterpart that warned of an impending coup in the Muslim state.

The unnamed diplomats said the Russian army in the region had intercepted highly sensitive army exchanges and encoded radio messages showing that the Turkish army was readying to stage a coup against the administration in Ankara.

The exchanges included dispatch of several army choppers to President Erdogan’s resort hotel to arrest or kill the president.

In any case, after that event, Turkey’s foreign policies definitely switched away from being clearly U.S.-allied, to being on the fence and calculated purely to serve Turkey’s advantage, no longer tied, at all, to NATO or the U.S., and, in many important respects, very much contrary to the U.S. regime. In fact, Erdogan has been emphatic that this coup had been led by Fethullah Gulen, a billionaire Muslim cleric, formerly allied with Erdogan, who since moving to the U.S. in 1999 has been his bitter enemy. In fact, some of NATO’s forces in Turkey were participating in the attempted coup. However, Erdogan holds on tenaciously to that NATO membership, because it gives Turkey enormous leverage it can use in order to grab territory from Syria, which the U.S. regime wants Turkey to do.

Here is how Erdogan has clearlly committed Turkey to taking at least parts of Syria’s northeast:

On 6 June 2018, Reuters headlined “Turkish university to open campus in northern Syria” and reported that, “Turkey’s Harran University, in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa [Turkey], said it is preparing to open a faculty in Al-Bab [Syria] for students in towns under Turkish control. … The Turkish cabinet has also approved opening a vocational high school in Jarablus [Syria] affiliated with Gaziantep University, Turkey’s official gazette said on Tuesday.”

On 30 July 2018, Syria.LiveuaMap headlined “Turkey start[s] to build highways starting from Cobanbey-al-Bab to Jarablus-Manbij in Syria” — all of which is in the parts of Syria’s north that Turkey controls.

On 23 May 2019, Gaziantep University posted an announcement of “The Global Syrian Refugee Crisis” conference to be held in Gaziantep, Turkey, on 14-18 October 2019, and also announced that: “The medium of instruction of our university is entirely English in %80 of faculties and Turkish in some faculties. However, after the ferocious civil war in Syria, we opened four departments (Engineering, Architecture, Administration and Theology) that teach in Arabic language. This was achieved by hiring Syrian academic staff in these programs which created opportunities for refugee students who want to continue their studies in Arabic.” So, it does seem to be Erdogan’s intention that directly across the border in Syria, this part of what has, until recently, been a part of Syria, is to be instead a part of Turkey. This would be the chief favorable outcome for the U.S. regime resulting from the Syrian portion of the CIA-planted “Arab Spring” rebellions in 2011.

On 27 May 2019, the Daily Sabah headlined “Turkey to Build New Faculties to Promote Higher Education in Northern Syria” and reported that

Gaziantep University, located in southern Turkey close to the Syrian border, decided to offer education for Syrians living in the northern part of the war-torn country, the areas that were liberated by Turkey’s two cross-border operations. … 

The university applied to Turkish education officials to set up four faculties in northern Syria’s al-Bab, Azaz and Mare districts, which is planned to focus on economics, business, teaching and engineering; some 2,700 prospective students have already taken proficiency exams. The faculties will be the second move by Gaziantep University as it previously opened a vocational school last year in Aleppo’s Jarablus district. While vocational education currently continues in five departments, the university is planning to expand it with four more and to provide education for 500 students.

In 2016, Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield and cleared about 2,000 kilometers of area in northern Syria, which was once dragged into darkness by the Daesh terrorist organization.

This seems to reflect Syria’s actual capitulation to Turkey, which henceforth is to control that area — permanently. The only question now is how large the seized area will turn out to be.

The first person, it seems, who recognized quickly the significance of this takeover was the tweeter “domihol” who on 28 May 2019 posted

Turkey is also throwing serious money at its seemingly permanent slice of Syria.

You don’t build universities just so Damascus can take it over soon.

Right below that is his:

I’m sorry to say – my prediction for Syria’s near and possibly medium term future still holds …

Dominic | دومينيك added,

[15 December 2018]  prediction:

TRUMP gets the oil & gas

ERDOGAN gets the water

PUTIN gets the “mission accomplished” moment …

9:49 AM – 28 May 2019

However, his predictions there (as is routine for tweets, which are good for communicating only bumper-stickers) are unsupported by anything. For example: Where is Turkey’s oil and gas? Is it actually anywhere near to the Turkish border? Here’s a map which shows where it is, and that’s certainly not near the Turkish border.

In addition, the U.S. regime is evidently preparing to assist Turkey’s takeover of parts of Syria, but focuses it specifically against Iran. On 24 May 2019, the U.S. State Department advertised a “Grant Opportunity” for NGOs to be “Supporting Local Governance and Civil Society in Syria” and are offering up to $75 million to each, in order to “Counter extremism and disinformation perpetuated by Iranian forces” and “End the presence of Iranian forces and proxies in Syria” and otherwise support America’s war against Iran. Perhaps the U.S. and Turkey have agreed that U.S. operations against Syria will continue in the Turk-seized areas after the U.S. occupation of the remaining parts of Syria has ended.

If Assad were to give a press conference now, the first question to ask would be: “Is Syria going to allow Turkish universities and highways to be built on Turk-seized Syrian territory?” Because, if the answer to that is anything like yes, then not only would it seem that Turkey has won against Syria and Russia and Iran, but so too has the U.S., whose fall-back position, ever since it first tried a coup in Syria in 1949, has been to at least break off a piece of Syria, when and if it failed to take the whole thing. The construction of a Turkish university, highway, and/or etc., in Syria, would be a huge apparent win for Donald Trump, but an even bigger apparent victory for Tayyip Erdogan, who now seems to be, yet again, a member of America’s alliance against Russia. (And Iran, too, would seem to be endangered by Syria’s apparent defeat in that part of Syria. But maybe not: is Turkey going to end altogether its alliance with the U.S.?)

Usually, successful aggression is impossible without allies, and the U.S., again, seems to have Turkey as one — and as an extremely important one (more important, perhaps, than ever before).

The U.S. Government wants to remove land from Syria’s Government. The Turkish Government wants to be the Government that actually takes it. So, U.S. and Turkey seem to have made a deal. Turkey took Syrian territory while promising (as the Qatar regime’s Al Jazeera headlined on 5 June 2018 — “YPG confirms withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij after Turkey-US deal”). Al Jazeera reported there that, “The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) said its military advisers would leave the town of Manbij a day after Turkey and the United States said they reached an agreement on the armed group’s withdrawal.” Those two foreign invaders against Syria (Turkey and U.S.) came to this agreement in Washington DC, regarding their respective invasions: Turkish forces won’t conquer YPG (separatist-Kurd) forces in any part of Syria unless and until that part has already become instead a part of Turkey — swallowed-up by Turkey. The U.S. will be protecting those Kurds until the U.S. ends its military occupation of Syria. After that, those Kurds will be on their own.

Back on 10 January 2018, Elijah J. Magnier had commented,

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad also considers Turkey to be another occupying force in northern Syria. He would like to liberate the entire Syrian territory, which is not the case with Russia, which would prefer to end the war as soon as possible and undertake the work at the negotiating table.”

Magnier seems to have been correct: Russia appears not to be objecting to Turkey’s land-seizures in Syria. Therefore, Turkey is a “middle-man” between both U.S. and Russia — strategizing with both.

On 19 January 2018, Tony Cartalucci commented,

The Syrian government with support from its Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese allies has embarked on a major military operation to retake parts of Syria’s northern governorate of Idlib. As it does so, the US and its regional allies are rushing to position themselves to ensure the permanent partition of Syria is achieved.”

He continued (all of which has likewise subsequently been borne out):

It should be noted that Afrin is located between [Idlib and] territory Turkey is currently occupying. Turkish troops, should they seize Afrin [which they soon did], would effectively have expanded Turkey’s “Euphrates Shield” by 30 miles (53 km) and present an opportunity for its troops to link up with troops of Turkey’s “Idlib Shield.” This would create a large, singular buffer zone within which US-NATO forces could harbor militants driven back by Syria’s most recent offensive.

Depending on Turkey’s success, the zone could be expanded even further, even as far as including Idlib city itself[which happened in September of that year] – thus granting the US an opportunity to present it as a second Syrian “capital” much in the way Benghazi was used in Libya during US-led regime change there. There remains, however, the fact that Idlib is openly occupied and administered by Al Qaeda, making the proposal of transforming it into an “opposition capital” particularly dubious.

Meanwhile, the US itself continues its own uninvited, illegal occupation of Syrian territory east of the Euphrates, having previously justified the invasion and occupation of Syrian territory under the guise of fighting the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIS). …

The US occupation of Syrian territory will be difficult for Damascus and its allies to contest without being drawn into a direct military confrontation. Turkey’s occupation may be easier to confound, but if sufficient political will exists to maintain it along with US backing, it could effectively result in a Golan Heights-style occupation of Syrian territory [by Turkey] that provides a long-term geopolitical pressure point versus Damascus for years to come.

And while US efforts to destroy Syria have fallen short, the US now permanently occupies territory within one of Iran’s closest and most important regional allies. Like a splinter under the skin turning septic, the US occupation will remain a constant potential source of wider infection both for Syria and the rest of the region.

Perhaps Cartalucci was the first person publicly to recognize what has been happening here.

On 8 February 2018, Russia’s RT bannered, “US-led coalition conducts ‘defensive’ airstrikes against Syrian forces”, and reported,

The US-led coalition has also firmly stressed its ‘non-negotiable right to act in self-defense,’ since its service members are embedded with the [anti-Syrian] ‘partners’ on ground in Syria. … ‘It’s very likely that the Americans have taken a course of dividing the country. They just gave up their assurances, given to us, that the only goal of their presence in Syria – without an invitation of the legitimate government – was to defeat Islamic State and the terrorists,’ Lavrov said.

All of this, likewise, has since been borne out. Key was the September 2018 Tehran summit of Erdogan, Putin and Rouhani (Syria not even being represented there), to decide how to handle Syria’s most pro-jihadist province: Idlib. (It’s even more jihadist than Raqqah, where ISIS was headquartered, and which is the second-most-jihadist.)

On 9 September 2018, the Turkish-Government-controlled (and this also means anti-Syrian) Daily Sabah newspaper bannered “The outcome of the Tehran summit” and reported that:

We know for a fact that Erdoğan’s goal was to prevent the Russians and the Assad regime from carrying out a comprehensive operation in Idlib. In this sense, he got what he wanted. At the joint press conference, the Russian president announced that the three countries, at the request of President Erdoğan, urged all parties to lay down their arms. As such, it became possible to prevent another humanitarian disaster, a new influx of refugees, the collapse of the Astana process [which Putin had established to replace the U.N.’s peace process immediately after Obama bombed on 17 September 2016 Syria’s Army at Deir Ezzor, thus violating the ceasefire agreement that his Secretary of State John Kerry had just signed with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 9 September 2016and the radicalization of moderate opposition, who would have moved closer to the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) [Al Qaeda in Syria]. At the same time, a clear distinction was made between ‘terrorists’ and opposition groups. At the same time, there is no doubt that the Iranian president’s proposal to remove the United States from the east of the Euphrates river was in line with Erdoğan’s own agenda.

Actually, however, the truthfulness of that last sentence is still very much in doubt.

The ultra-reliable Al Masdar News reported on 10 September 2018 that

Russia and Iran have already informed Turkey that they will not accept any jihadist factions inside of Idlib; however, the latter is attempting to convince Moscow and Tehran to avoid carrying out the attack in favor of Ankara clearing these groups.”

Putin and Rouhani accepted Erdogan’s promise there (of “Ankara clearing those groups”), and consequently allowed Turkey’s troops to handle Idlib. But, evidently, Erdogan had been lying about that. He didn’t eliminate the jihadists — he has instead been protecting them (except that his forces attack the Kurdish-independence forces against Syria’s Government, the anti-Assad fighters whom Erdogan authentically has been obsessed to kill).

The very next day, on September 11th, Paul Mansfield at Syria News headlined “Erdogan Buys Time for Terrorists at the Tehran Summit” and he observed that

The Turkish newspaper Daily Sabah released the components of Turkey’s plan for Idlib. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out it effectively means annexing Syrian territory, entrenching Turkish proxy Free Syrian Army forces, while falsely legitimizing their presence through a trilateral agreement, one made (it should be mentioned) without the presence of the country it concerns: Syria.

On 18 September 2018, another of the Turkish regime’s major newspapers, Yeni Safak, headlined “Turkey tells 50,000 FSA fighters to be ready for deployment as tensions rise in Idlib” and reported that,

As the Assad regime and Russian warplanes viciously attack the last opposition-held stronghold of Syria’s Idlib, Turkey ramped up its military reinforcements in northern Syria and instructed over 50,000 Free Syrian Army (FSA) [that being the Turkish-led anti-Assadfighters stationed in Afrin, Azaz, Jarabulus, al-Bab and al-Rai to ‘be ready for military deployment.’”

This anti-Syrian report continued, “The Bashar al-Assad regime recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive in Idlib, which is controlled by various armed opposition groups.” It didn’t mention that those “armed opposition groups” were the members of Al Qaeda-led forces defeated elsewhere in Syria who had chosen to be bused by the Syrian Government into the most pro-jihadist Syrian province, Idlib, instead of to be outright shot to death on-the-spot by Syrian troops, where they had been fighting. Such crucial information was left out of Western news-reports.

It went on: “An attack on Syria’s Idlib, the last opposition-held stronghold, would be a massacre,” and (since this newspaper reflected Erdogan’s anti-Assad, meaning anti-Syrian, viewpoint) it alleged that “Russia and Assad regime target civilians” instead of try to exterminate jihadists — especially now in Idlib itself, to which Syria’s Government had, indeed, been busing the surviving defeated jihadists. (As was previously noted, the only alternative that Syria’s Government had had regarding those hold-out fighters would have been simply to go in and slaughter not only them but the human shields behind whom they were fighting, which would have enormously increased the civilian casualties, which the ‘barbaric’ Assad-led Government was always trying to avoid doing. So: that’s how and why so many of the Al Qaeda-led forces came to be collected inside Idlib to begin with.)

NOTE:

Erdogan might be a double-agent here. But how could Turkey be building infrastructure in Syria and not be permanently taking that land? All of those “seems to be” could be wrong, but it’s hard to see how Syria’s Government could accept any such blatant grab of land away from their nation. I had written on 14 September 2018 about Erdogan’s duplicity, headlining “U.S. Protects Al Qaeda in Syria, Proven”:

Erdogan is in both camps — America’s and Russia’s — and playing each side against the other, for what he wants. But he could turn out to be the biggest loser from ‘his’ success here.

If he exterminates Idlib’s jihadists, then the U.S. side will condemn him for it. But if he instead frees those jihadists to return to their home-countries, then both sides will condemn him for having done so.

The biggest apparent ‘winner’ from all this, Erdogan, could thus turn out to be the biggest real loser from it. And the biggest apparent ‘loser’ from it, Assad, could turn out to be the biggest real winner from it.

Then, three days later, on September 17th, I argued that the big winners from this will probably be Putin, Erdogan, Rouhani, and Assad. The headline of that was “Putin and Erdogan Plan Syria-Idlib DMZ as I Recommended”, and the basic case was presented that this would turn out to be only a feint on Erdogan’s part, and that he and Putin and Rouhani (and Assad) would all benefit from this feint by Erdogan, and take home the win. It still could be that. But only Erdogan himself probably knows. And who can read his mind? The main sign I would look at is whether Putin and Rouhani just ignore, as much as possible, Turkey’s ‘seizures’ of Idlib and of the most-jihadist parts of Aleppo province bordering Idlib to Idlib’s immediate east. (For example, this fundamentalist-Sunni family from Sweida — which is perhaps the most pro-jihadist southern province — migrated during the war to Al-Bab, which is Turk-controlled.) If Putin and Rouhani ignore Turkey’s solidification of its control over those areas of northwestern Syria, then this is how the U.S. side and proxy forces — jihadists and Kurdish fanatics — might lose in Syria, and be forced out of there. This Turkish ‘win’ would entail a loss for both the U.S. and its proxy-forces, especially the Kurds. But it would also entail Syria’s loss of the areas that were always the greatest thorn in Assad’s side. In that case, America’s former proxy-forces in northwest Syria — Al Qaeda’s surviving Syrian forces, plus the separatist Kurdish forces — would henceforth be under Erdogan’s control. If Putin, Rouhani and Assad won’t object to that, then the main loser could be the U.S. regime, which would cede to Erdogan not only America’s last holdout in Syria but also all of its proxy-forces in Syria, henceforth to be totally subject to whatever Erdogan has in mind for them. However, the biggest losers could still be the Turkish and the American regimes. But that would be true only if the surrounded U.S. forces in Syria’s northeast become forced out. If the U.S. occupation stays in Syria, then the U.S. and Turkey will have taken all of northern Syria. But no oil or gas is there, either. (It’s south of there.) What, consequently, is this war even about, any longer? Is it about contending national leaders who refuse to acknowledge defeat? Is that now the only real reason for all of this ongoing death, and destruction? Is it just pure ego?

If Turkey quits NATO, then the biggest loser from the end-part of the Syrian war would be the U.S. and its allies. But, of course, the biggest losers from the entire war are the Syrian people. There’s no doubt, whatsoever, about that.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Syria in Past 24 Hour: US-Backed SDF’s Military Bases Torched in Popular Uprising in Hasaka

Thu May 23, 2019 2:31
Syria in Past 24 Hour: US-Backed SDF's Military Bases Torched in Popular Uprising in Hasaka
TEHRAN (FNA)- The people of Hasaka set on fire the military bases of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in a Hasaka region as tensions and differences rose between people and SDF in areas under their control.

Hasaka

The angry residents of Hasaka torched the security centers of SDF across the city, the Arabic-language al-Watan newspaper reported.

The newspaper noted that people’s fury in Hasaka’s Khashman district came after SDF killed a young man who had resisted forced recruitment of soldiers by the SDF.

Al-Watan pointed to the wide differences between Hasaka people and SDF militants in Khashman region, and said the SDF has dispatched reinforcement and military equipment to the region.

Meantime, battlefield sources in Hasaka reported that Asayesh and Military Police militants affiliated to the SDF launched massive attacks on the towns of Nas Tal, Daraja, Un al-Rous and other towns in Tal Barak region, and said that the Kurdish militants have arrested tens of civilians, including teachers, for forced recruitment.

Damascus, Dara’a

The Syrian Army seized a large amount of weapons and military equipment, including Turkish and US-made arms and ammunition, in areas and military bases formerly held by the terrorists Damascus and Dara’a provinces.

The Syrian Army’s engineering units during their clean-up operations in the towns of Damascus and Dara’a province discovered several arms depots and former hideouts of the terrorists which contained large amounts of weapons and military equipment.

Meantime, a Syrian Army’s military source announced that the Syrian Army units found different kinds of machineguns, combat rifles, RPGs, mortar and shoulder-mounted rockets which were made in the US and Turkey.

Hama

The Syrian Army backed by the Russian Air Force thwarted consecutive attacks by terrorists on their military positions in Northern Hama, inflicting heavy losses on the militants and killing at least 80 of them.

The Syrian Army engaged in fierce clashes with Tahrir al-Sham al-Hay’at, Jeish al-Izzah and Turkistani Party terrorist groups who had launched massive rocket attacks on army’s military positions and exploded bomb-laden vehicles along al-Hobait-Kafr Naboudeh axis in Northern Hama.

Meantime, other Syrian Army clashed with other terrorist groups who had attacked the Syrian Army’s military positions in Tal Hawash, al-Hamirat and al-Hawiz regions.

The Arabic-language website of the Russian Sputnik News Agency quoted a military source as saying that the Russian and Syrian fighter jets pounded the contact lines of the terrorists in Khan Sheikhoun, al-Hobait, al-Qasabiyeh and Abedin in Northern Hama and Southern Idlib concurrent with several-hour-long clashes between the Syrian Army and militants.

It noted that the terrorists sustained a heavy defeat in all their failed attacks which were the heaviest of their kind in recent months, and said that at least 80 terrorists were killed and tens of others were injured as well as destroying at least 12 military vehicles and bomb-laden military vehicles.

Meantime, Tahrir al-Sham terrorists deployed in Western Aleppo launched rocket attacks on Aleppo City’s residential areas, injuring several civilians, including children.

The terrorists’ attacks on Aleppo City’s residential areas took place with the aim of supporting the terrorists in Northern Hama.

Idlib, Aleppo

Terrorists in Syria are planning chemical attacks in the Idlib de-escalation zone, as well as in the west of the Aleppo province, the head of the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation said on Tuesday.

“The militants plan to stage such provocations in the village of Jarjanaz, as well as in the town of Saraqib, where a group of children and adults — refugees from the Southern provinces of Syria — have already been gathered. Similar preparations are underway in the West of Aleppo province”, Maj. Gen. Viktor Kupchishin stated at a daily briefing, RIA Novosti reported.

Kupchishin added that terrorists operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone possess a significant amount of poisonous substances with which they fill munitions to use in staged provocations aimed at accusing the Syrian Army of “chemical attacks” against the civilian population.

Also on Wednesday, the Kurdish fighters conducted two military operations on Ankara-backed militants in occupied Afrin region in Northwestern Aleppo, killing and injuring 14 of them, media sources said.

The Kurdish-language Hawar News reported that the Afrin Liberation Forces launched fresh military operations against the Turkish Army and its allied militants in Afrin, hitting a military position of al-Jbahat al-Shamia in the village of Shara which resulted in the death of eight Ankara-backed militants and injury of three others.

The Kurdish fighters also pounded a center of Ahrar al-Sharqiyeh in the town of Bastouleh in Shirava region, killing and injuring three others.

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By Aram Mirzaei for the Saker blog

Resistance report: Syrian Army kicks off long overdue Idlib offensive and Washington intensifies Iran threats

On May 6, the Syrian Army finally kicked off the long awaited Idlib offensive to expel the US-backed Jihadists from the Idlib demilitarized zone. Having postponed the offensive for months due to Ankara’s reluctance to allow the Syrian Army to reclaim the area, Moscow and Damascus finally lost their patience after the latest Jihadist missile attack on Hmaimeem airport last week and decided to punish these terrorists once and for all. This is the first offensive that the Syrian Army and its allies are launching this year, and despite some claims that the Syrian Army offensive will target the entire Idlib Governorate, the operation will rather be limited to the so called demilitarized zone that stretches from the Al-Ghaab Plain to the Abu Dhuhour Crossing. The offensive is primarily lead by the Syrian Army in coordination with allied militias, with the Russian Air Force covering the skies, however Iranian forces will also be present to offer logistical support. Since launching the offensive, the Syrian Army has quickly managed to steamroll the terrorists in northwestern Hama, moving to capture the imperative town of Kafr Naboudeh, as they are marching towards the Al-Ghaab plain. To the west, Syrian Forces are moving to attack the remaining Jihadist-held towns in northeastern Latakia, especially targeting the imperative town of Kabbani. The Syrian Army will be successful if they can neutralize the Jihadist threat to the government held towns in the Hama and Idlib provinces, thus denying the terrorists to launch raids on these towns.

What remains to be seen now is how Ankara will react as they are deeply entrenched with the Jihadist forces across this area, having previously set up 12 “observation posts” stretching between Latakia and Aleppo provinces. It is also interesting to speculate what this offensive will mean for Ankara and its proxies, if the Syrian Army is successful. As the Jihadists lose more ground, Ankara loses influence over northwestern Syria while the SDF consolidates its hold over the land east of the Euphrates. One theory as to why Ankara has agreed to this territory could be that Moscow and Damascus have temporarily agreed to allow Ankara to launch an offensive on the SDF held territory to the east, as a way to replace the territorial losses sustained on the Idlib front. Indeed Damascus has vowed to retake every inch of Syria, but given the amount of players involved in this war and given the numerous obstacles standing in Damascus’ way, it seems that a pragmatic approach is the best way to go here. It would be preferable if eastern Syria was occupied by Ankara and its proxies rather than by Washington and its proxies due to the fact that Ankara is more likely to cooperate and strike deals with Moscow and Damascus than the insane people over in Washington.

Washington intensifies animosity towards Tehran

Another week, another threat. Washington’s threats against Iran have become a weekly ritual now as idiots Pompeo and Bolton issued new threats towards as part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Tehran. Tehran had earlier warned that if Iran cannot use the strait of Hormuz, then the IRGC would close it for everyone. This prompted Washington to ramp up its threats as they sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the region, in what was described as a “clear and unmistakable message to Iran” by Bolton. He added that the decision was “in response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings.” Really? In this situation Iran is the aggressive one who is escalating things? The Persian Gulf is Iran’s lifeline, and Washington is looking to cut that lifeline, situated some 10 000 kilometres away from America’s eastern coastlines, yet Iran is the one that must argue for why it is not seeking war with the most aggressive evil regime the world has ever seen. On top of that the White House fool Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday, imposing new sanctions on Iran’s metal and mining sectors, with Trump even taking to Twitter to threaten anyone doing business with Iran to have their assets illegally seized by Washington. At the same time, the White House fool added that he is “looking forward to someday meeting with the leaders of Iran in order to work out an agreement and, very importantly, taking steps to give Iran the future it deserves,”

What kind of a sick statement is this? Washington truly has no limit as to how low it can sink. Do they actually believe that Tehran will capitulate and agree to humiliation? I have a hard time believing even the idiots in Washington are this stupid. They can’t seriously believe that Tehran is going to be enticed to come back to the table with these threats and sanctions imposed. As a matter of fact things in Iran is looking really bad for the proponents of the JCPOA and further negotiations with Washington and its vassals as the conservative bloc, known as “hardliners” in the West were actually proven right in their arguments that it is completely pointless to negotiate anything with the West. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have been facing a lot of scrutiny in Iran lately for their naïve belief that this deal would thaw relations with the West, and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has vocally criticized the deal in several speeches this year. As conservatives gain more ground in Iran, a fact I suspect Washington fully understands, Tehran is eyeing the only option remaining now: confrontation. It is either that or lying down and accepting death and defeat. The only conclusion I can draw from this mess is that Washington is actively looking for war. They want to provoke Tehran into a first strike so that they can start a larger regional war not only against Iran but also Tehran’s allies in Hezbollah and the Iraqi militias in a bid to destroy the entire resistance to the Zionist empire altogether.

This week also saw Iran informing the five remaining signatories to the JCPOA of its decision to suspend the implementation of some of its commitments under the multinational agreement, exactly one year after Washington unilaterally abandoned the agreement. I am amazed over the amount of self-restraint and patience exercised by Tehran since Washington’s exit from the deal last year, as Tehran has given the remaining signatories almost 12 months’ time to compensate for Washington’s withdrawal and guarantee the survival of the deal. Nevertheless, no measures to blunt the impact of economic sanctions re-imposed on Tehran have been taken by the remaining signatories. Not only is the Islamic Republic entitled to suspend the implementation of the deal, but it also has the right to withdraw from it altogether, what is the point of remaining in the deal when the main reason for entering it is now all but gone?

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has also given the remaining signatories 60 days to meet their commitments, and if they fail to address Tehran’s concerns, Tehran will suspend the implementation of two more commitments under the JCPOA. Unsurprisingly, the EU immediately rejected the ultimatum and expressed “great concern” about Iran’s decision. In a statement issued on May 9, top EU diplomats said “We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT (Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons). In this respect, we recall the key role of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) monitoring and verification of the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments.”

In the statement, the Europeans further expressed regret about the re-imposition of sanctions against Tehran and said they would stay fully committed to “the preservation and full implementation” of the JCPOA, which they described as “a key achievement of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, which is in the security interest of all.”

What a pathetic statement. When Washington withdrew from the deal, no one dared to even say a word, but when Tehran seeks to suspend some of its implementation after having been betrayed, the EU wants to “assess Iran’s compliance?” The EU has had a year to come up with a plan to continue the deal despite Washington’s withdrawal, but do not have the guts to stand up to Washington’s criminal behaviour of unilateral sanctions and threats. Instead all they have done is to talk nonsense and issue poor statements about their so called “commitments”. Washington has threatened to sanction anyone doing business with Iran, this includes its European vassals, why should Iran believe that the EU would dare to stand up to Washington and risk being slapped with sanctions themselves for the sake of Tehran? Ayatollah Khamenei previously warned that he does not trust the Europeans and has no faith in their promises, he is absolutely right as he fully understands that the EU has no will of its own and are a bunch of cowards who let Washington dictate their interests.

Tehran has nothing more to lose than it already has here, why remain in a deal that leaves Tehran without the deterrence of nuclear weapons and still be sanctioned? This situation is even worse than the one before the JCPOA deal. I usually don’t agree with the conservative bloc on foreign policy matters, but I see no other choice here for Tehran to guarantee its own survival in the face of Washington’s relentless aggression and criminal behaviour.

عمليّات الجيش مستمرّة: النار تعيد رسم «توافقات إدلب»

 صهيب عنجريني
الأربعاء 8 أيار 2019

عمليّات الجيش مستمرّة: النار تعيد رسم «توافقات إدلب»

تؤشّر كثافة نشاط الطيران الحربي على أنّ تخفيض وتيرة العمليات ونطاقها غير مطروح حاليّاً (أ ف ب )

عمليّات الجيش مستمرّة: النار تعيد رسم «توافقات إدلب»

نتائج اليومين الأولين من العمليات تمنح الجيش أفضليّة قطع طرق الإمداد بين قلعة المضيق (ريف حماة الشمالي الغربي)، وبلدة كفرنبودة (ريف حماة الشمالي الشرقي). وتبدو الأخيرة وجهةً مرجحة لعمليات الجيش في الأيام المقبلة، كما يشكل مثلث «مورك، كفرزيتا، اللطامنة» (على المحور المقابل) هدفاً بالغ الأهمية. وتؤشّر كثافة نشاط الطيران الحربي المتزايدة على أنّ تخفيض وتيرة العمليات ونطاقها غير مطروح حاليّاً، بل يبدو أنّ الاستعدادات قد استُكملت على عدد من المحاور الأخرى لتدشين عمليّات بريّة باتت في انتظار «الساعة الصفر».

ومن المنتظر أن تُشكل الضغوط الداخلية التركية عاملاً يحدّ فعالية أنقرة في التأثير بعمليات الجيش السوري راهناً، في ظل انشغال الرئيس رجب طيب أدروغان، وحزبه، في معركة إعادة الانتخابات البلدية في إسطنبول، وتزايد التحدّيات الاقتصاديّة المرتبطة باستقرار الليرة التركيّة. مع كل ما تقدّم، لا يمكن الحديث عن «عملية شاملة» تطمح إلى استعادة كامل إدلب في الوقت الراهن، لا بسبب صعوبة تدشين معركة بهذا الحجم فحسب، بل بفعل التداخلات السياسية الدولية المتوقّعة. ومن المرجّح أنّ السيطرة على «المنطقة المنزوعة السلاح» المُفترضة تُشكل هدفاً أساسياً لعمليات الجيش السوري في مرحلتها الراهنة. ويعزّز ذلك حرص وسائل الإعلام الرسميّة على إدراج عمليات الأيام الأخيرة في إطار «الرد على خروق الإرهابيين».

من دون تقديم نفي أو تأكيد، يشدد مصدر عسكري سوري على أنّ «خريطة عمليات الجيش السوري واضحة منذ زمن طويل، وهي تشمل كلّ المناطق الخاضعة لسيطرة الإرهابيين». ويؤكد المصدر أن «العلم السوري سيرفرف في كل تلك المناطق، السؤال فقط هو: متى؟ والجواب تقرّره القيادة في كل مرحلة، وترون نتائجه في الميدان». في الوقت نفسه، يحرص المصدر على القول إنّ «الجيش قادرٌ على نزع الأسلحة الثقيلة والخفيفة ومن يحملها ما دامت الاتفاقات حبراً على ورق، وإنّ الإرهابيين توهّموا قدرتهم على فرض أمر واقع».

وترجع آخر محاولة روسية ــ تركية، لإنقاذ «تفاهمات سوتشي» إلى آذار/مارس الماضي، حين أُعلن تسيير «دوريات مشتركة». وتكفّل وقت قصير في تظهير حقيقة أنّ المسألة لم تعدُ كونها محاولة تركيّة لـ«شراء الوقت»، ليبوء «تسيير الدوريات» بالفشل بعد أن أحجمت (أو عجزت) أنقرة عن فرضه (راجع «الأخبار» 9 آذار 2018). وحتى الآن، لا تعكس كواليس المجموعات المسلّحة (ولا سيّما «هيئة تحرير الشام») استعداداً لـ«تدارك ما فات» سلميّاً، والرضوخ لفكرة الدوريات المشتركة، وإفراغ «المناطق المنزوعة السلاح». على العكس من ذلك، تؤكد مصادر «جهاديّة»، في حديث إلى «الأخبار»، أنّ «النيّة معقودة على استعادة كل المناطق التي انحاز عنها المجاهدون (في إشارة إلى البانة والجنابرة وتل عثمان الاستراتيجي)». وحتى الآن، يُشكل تكثيف عمليات الجيش السوري عائقاً يحول دون قدرة «تحرير الشام» على شنّ عمليات هجوميّة في محاور أخرى، بغية تخفيف الضغط عن مناطق ريف حماة الشمالي، لكنّ هذا الخيار يظل حاضراً في حسابات «تحرير الشام» وحلفائها.

الأمم المتحدة تطالب بـ«العودة إلى سوتشي»

طالب الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة، أنطونيو غوتيريش، بـ«ضرورة حماية المدنيين في إدلب». وأعرب بيان صادر عن المتحدث باسم غوتيريتش عن القلق «إزاء الهجمات الجوية التي استهدفت مواقع تمركز المدنيين والبنى التحتية، وما نجم عنها من مقتل وجرح مئات المدنيين ونزوح أكثر من 150 ألف شخص». ودعا البيان جميع الأطراف إلى «إعادة التزام ترتيبات وقف إطلاق النار ومذكرة التفاهم الموقعة في 17 أيلول 2018». بدوره، حذّر «مكتب الأمم المتحدة لحقوق الإنسان» من المخاطر التي «تحيق بمئات آلاف النازحين في شمال حماة وجنوب إدلب في ظل التصعيد العسكري الأخير». وقالت المتحدثة باسم المكتب، رافينا شمداساني، إن «الفارين من الأعمال العدائية معرضون لخطر كبير ويواجهون مخاوف خطيرة تتعلق بالحماية على طول الطريق».

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Syrian War Report – May 7, 2019: Multiple Casualites Reported Amid Clashes In Northwestern Hama

South Front

On May 6, air defenses of Russia’s Hmeimim airbase in Syria repelled two militant rocket attacks intercepting at least 36 projectiles, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

According to the defense ministry, the attacks caused no damage or casualties. Militants had used a unmanned aerial vehicle to direct their fire.

The shelling came from the Idlib de-escalation zone, which included the militant-held parts of Latakia, Idlib, Hama and Aleppo provinces. The Russian Aerospace Forces carried out strikes on militant positions in response to the attack.

According to pro-government and pro-militant sources, Russian warplanes struck two dozen of targets in northern Hama and southern Idlib on May 6 and continued striking militant positions on May 7.

The situation is developing in northwestern Hama where the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies launched an advance on positions of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, Jaish al-Izza and other militant groups on May 6.

Initially, government troops seized several points north and northwest of Kernaz and forced militants to retreat towards Kafr Nabudah.

However, by the evening, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham-led forces had launched a counter-attack attempting to recapture the lost positions. In the morning of May 7, clashes continued.

Pro-militant sources released multiple conflicting reports urging that from 20 to 80 pro-government fighters were killed, and militants destroyed or captured at least 2 pieces of military equipment. Most of these claims are a part of the ongoing propaganda war. According to pro-government sources, up to 20 militants were killed. This number also remains unconfirmed.

Additionally, clashes and artillery duels took place in western Aleppo where some civilian casualties were reported.

According to reports, the Turkish Armed Forces had retreated from their observation post in Qalaat al-Madiq amid an intense fighting in northwestern Hama. This may indicate that Ankara is expecting a further escalation in the nearby area.

However, if the SAA focuses its efforts on a short part of the frontline and employs a limited force only for this purpose, it’s unlikely that it will achieve any major gains.

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Video: Israel Strikes ‘Iranian Targets’ in Homs. Only Syrian Missile Launcher Found to be Destroyed

Global Research, April 15, 2019

Overnight on April 13, warplanes of the Israeli Air Force delivered strikes on targets near the town of Masyaf in the Syrian province of Homs from Lebanese airspace.

According to the Syrian version of the events, most of Israeli missiles were intercepted, but the rest of them destroyed several buildings and injured at least 20 people, including 3 service members. Fragments of at least one Israeli missile were found near the Lebanese border.

The College of Management, the Scientific Research center and the Accounting School were among the targets inside Masyaf itself.

Israeli strikes also hit the nearby town of Umm Haratayn where, according to released photos, they destroyed a Maysalun heavy artillery rocket launcher. Maysalun is a Syrian-made variant of the Iranian Zelzal-2 unguided long-range artillery rocket. The rocket has a range of 210km and a heavy high-explosive warhead. Israeli sources had accused Iran and Syria of upgrading these rockets with guidance systems, thus converting them into precision-guided rockets.

It is important to note that the Israeli strikes took place near positions of launched of the S-300 air defense system delivered by Russia to the Syrian military. The system was not employed and likely remains not operational.

ISIS has drastically increased attacks on pro-government forces in the al-Mayadin-Deir Ezzor-al-Sukhna triangle. During the past few weeks, at least two convoys of the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and pro-government militias came under attacks there. Various sources say that from 7 to 15 pro-government fighters were killed in these attacks.

On April 12, the Russian Aerospace Forces even delivered strikes on supposed ISIS targets near the town of Huribishah. In March, the SAA and its allies conducted a security operation against ISIS in the areas of Huribishah and Kobajjep, but these limited efforts were not enough to get rid of ISIS terrorists. Some sources even speculate that ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is hiding in the central Syrian desert.

The situation around the Idlib de-escalation zone remains unchanged. Ceasefire violations and artillery duels erupt across the entire contact line between the so-called opposition and the SAA on a constant basis.

On April 12, Kommersant daily reported citing informed sources that Gen Col Andrey Serdykov has become a commander of the Russian military group in Syria. One his key tasks, according to the report, is to set conditions for launching joint Russian-Turkish patrols along the demilitarized zone and to put an end to the ceasefire violations. Local sources say that this goal remains unrealistic while radical militants armed with heavy weapons remains deployed in the formally declared demilitarized zone.

On the eastern bank of the Euphrates, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are conducting a wide-scale security operation in an attempt to track and eliminate remaining ISIS cells.

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