Syrian War Report – September 5, 2018: Israel Carries Out New Strike As Idlib Battle Looms

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On September 4, Israel carried out a strike on targets in the provinces of Tartus and Hama, according to the Syrian state media. The Syrian Air Defense Forces intercepted at least five missiles. However, the rest of them hit a target in the area of Masyaf in the Hama countryside.

Pro-Israeli sources described the target as an Iranian weapons depot. However, no visual confirmation to confirm this claim was provided. According to the news agency SANA, at least one person was killed and 12 others were injured as a result of the attack. No further details were revealed.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military announced that it has carried out over 200 strikes on Iranian targets in Syria over the past year.

The September 4 Israeli strike came on the same day when the Syrian Air Fore increased number of airstrikes on terrorist targets – mostly Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and the Turkistan Islamic Party – in southern and southwestern Idlib. According to different sources, about 30-60 strikes were carried out. Pro-militant sources also claimed that the Russian Aerospace Forces were involved.

Earlier, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that US threats to strike the war-torn country will not halt the liberation of Idlib.

“The intended aggression won’t affect our people’s morale nor will it sway our military plans to liberate Idlib,” Muallem told the Russian state media. “This is not the first time that the United States, Great Britain and France have cooked up a scheme for a chemical weapons incident,” he added.

Separately, the Syrian Foreign Ministry accused the US and its allies of supplying terrorists with weapons through Eastern European countries and the Balkan countries.

“It is obvious that the United States and its allies are supplying a huge amount of ammunition and weapons, using third countries such as the Eastern European countries, Ukraine, and the Balkan states, to fuel the Nusra Front [also known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham] and Daesh [ISIS],” Alaa Saeed Din Hamdan, the first secretary of the Syrian Foreign Ministry’s international relations department, said.

On September 7, Iranian, Turkey and Russian presidents will meet for new high level talks in Teheran. According to the Kremlin, the situation in Idlib will be among the key topics of the Syrian agenda.

The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) released a statement claiming that it had captured a key ISIS member responsible for the terrorist group’s intelligence activities in Raqqa, Aleppo, Hama and other areas.

Abu Kerem (real name Adil Musa Abdouljezar) was allegedly captured by the YPG’s Anti-Terror Units on August 11. The YPG also claimed that the captured terrorist had “provided a lot of important information about ISIS and how it has been strengthened and bolstered by the Turkish state.”

The YPG and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), often accuse Turkey of war crimes and supporting terrorists. In turn, Ankara describes the YPG and the PYD as terrorist organizations, local affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

 

Syrian Army Discovers More US-Supplied Weapons In Southern Al-Quneitra (Photos)

On September 5, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) uncovered several weapons caches, which had been left behind by militants, during a search operation in the southern al-Quneitra countryside, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).

The weapons caches included several rounds of the US-made SMAW shoulder-launched rocket weapon, one US-supplies Fagot anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), one launcher of Chines-made HJ-73c ATGM, a 107mm rocket launcher, two SPG-9 73mm recoilless guns, dozens of light machine guns and several night vision binoculars.

Syrian Army Discovers More US-Supplied Weapons In Southern Al-Quneitra (Photos)

Click to see full-size image, By SANA

Syrian Army Discovers More US-Supplied Weapons In Southern Al-Quneitra (Photos)

Click to see full-size image, By SANA

Syrian Army Discovers More US-Supplied Weapons In Southern Al-Quneitra (Photos)

Click to see full-size image, By SANA

Syrian Army Discovers More US-Supplied Weapons In Southern Al-Quneitra (Photos)

Click to see full-size image, By SANA

The SANA’s reporter in al-Quneitra said that the SAA also found several medical equipment of the Western-backed “White Helmets” organization.

Last week, the SAA discovered a large ammo depot of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in the town of Jubata al-Khashab in al-Quneitra during a similar search operation.

The SAA restored control of opposition-held areas in al-Quneitra after a successful military operation that ended on July 31. As a result of the operation most of the local fighters in the southern governorate joined the reconciliation process, while the rest opted  to withdraw towards northern Syria.

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Syrian War Report – March 28, 2018: Tiger Forces To Storm Douma If Deal Not Reached

South Front

On March 27, the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) started a push to capture the city of Tell Rifaat, located southeast of the city of Afrin in northern Syria.

When Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch started on January 20, a force led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) controlled Tell Rifaat. Later, the YPG shared control of the Tell Rifaat countryside with the National Defense Forces – a pro-government militia integrated within the Syrian Arab Army (SAA).

According to pro-Turkish sources, by March 28, the TAF and the FSA had established control of Tell Rifaat, Minagh Air Base and Sheikh Isa. The villages of Deir Jamal, Kafranya and Sheikh Hilal had reportedly remained contested.

No clashes have been reported in the area. If this is true, Turkey and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance have likely reached a kind of behind the scenes deal handing over control of Tell Rifaat and its countryside to Ankara and its proxies. Earlier, Turkish top officials claimed that the military operation in Afrin will be finished only after the seizure of Tell Rifaat.

However, pro-YPG sources deny that the TAF is now in control of Tell Rifaat. The situation is unclear.

The SAA and the Tiger Forces are preparing to storm the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta as negotiations between the government and Jaish al-Islam, which controls the area, have shown a lack of progress over the last few days. According to pro-government sources, the operation may be stated soon if a reconciliation deal is not reached.

Earlier, the rest of the militant-held area of Eastern Ghouta was liberated by government troops by force and through a series of reconciliation deals. The deals allowed local militants to withdraw towards Idlib without heavy weapons or to settle their legal status under the Damascus governance.

The US is building a military base in the vicinity of the country’s largest oil field – the Omar oil field, Mehdi Kobani, a press secretary of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Deir Ezzor told Sputnik Turkiye on March 27.

“The US is building a large military base in the oil-rich Al Omar region of Deir ez-Zor province. Due to security concerns we cannot provide information about the acreage of this new installation. There is currently construction machinery working in the vicinity of the base, and security is being provided by SDF forces,” Kobani said.

First reports about the US military installation in the Omar oil field area appeared in the middle of March. Now, the SDF de-facto confirmed that its patron continues efforts to continue the occupation of eastern Syria.

Locals have started a series of protests in the village of Al-Mansoura in the province of Raqqah. The tensions reportedly erupted after the SDF arrested a leader of the local Arab tribe.

The SDF is a de-facto Kurdish-dominated group, controlled by the YPG and its political wing – the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The PYD and PYD-linked “security forces” are actively working to establish their own rule in the SDF-held areas. These efforts are causing tensions with the local population.

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LOCALS PROTEST AGAINST US-BACKED FORCES IN EASTERN SYRIA (VIDEO)

South Front

27.03.2018

Locals Protest Against US-backed Forces In Eastern Syria (Video)

Locals are protesting against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Al-Mansoura in the province of Raqqah.

According to reports, the protestors are members of the local tribe, al-Buhamis. The tensions have erupted after the SDF has arrested the tribe’s leader.

The SDF is a de-facto Kurdish-dominated group, controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and their political wing – the so-called Democratic Union Party. The PYD and PYD-linked “security forces” are actively working to establish own rule in the SDF-held areas. These efforts lead to tensions with the local Arab population.

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Syria – US Traps Itself, Commits to Occupation, Helps to Sustain the Astana Agreement

Syria - US Traps Itself, Commits to Occupation, Helps to Sustain the Astana Agreement

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 17.01.2018

Syria – US Traps Itself, Commits to Occupation, Helps to Sustain the Astana Agreement

The Trump administration policy in Syria is finally coming into daylight. It has decided to permanently separate north-east of Syria from the rest of Syria with the rather comical idea that this will keep Iranian influence out of Syria and give the U.S. a voice in a final Syrian settlement. This move lacks strategical foresight:

The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State is currently training a force to maintain security along the Syrian border as the operation against ISIS shifts focus. The 30,000-strong force will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, CJTF-OIR told The Defense Post.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said.

Veale acknowledged that more Kurds will serve in the areas of northern Syria, while more Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq.

The SDF and the Kurds are under control of the PKK/YPK, a terrorist organization that is nearly daily fighting and killing Turkish forces within Turkey. The Arabs which ostensibly shall seal the area off from the rest of Syria are most likely tribal forces that were earlier aligned with the Islamic State.

The Turks were not consulted before the U.S. move and are of course not amused that a “terrorist gang”, trained and armed by the U.S., will control a long stretch of their southern border. Any Turkish government would have to take harsh measures to prevent such a strategic threat to the country:

Such initiatives endangering our national security and Syria’s territorial integrity through the continuation of cooperation with PYD/YPG in contradiction with the commitments and statements made by the US are unacceptable. We condemn the insistence on this flawed approach and remind once again that Turkey is determined and capable to eliminate any threats targeting its territory.

Russia noted that such a U.S. occupation has no legal basis:

The Russian foreign minister stressed decisions of the kind were taken without any grounds, coming from a UN Security Council resolution, or from some agreements reached during the intra-Syrian talks in Geneva.

Syria warned that any Syrian taking part in this move will be in trouble:

The Ministry considered any Syrian citizen who takes part in the US-backed militia as a traitor to the Syrian state and people and will be treated as one, adding that these militias will hinder reaching to a political solution to the situation in Syria.

The U.S.Congress is concerned about this move:

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, outlined US goals in Syria as finishing off IS, stabilizing northeastern Syria and countering Iranian influence.

“That won’t pass muster,” committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., interjected.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who initially asked Satterfield the question he declined to answer, expressed concerns that eliminating Iranian influence from Syria entirely was a fool’s errandthat could keep US troops tied up in Syria forever.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, also voiced concern that the Trump administration does not have the necessary legal authorization from Congress to keep US troops in Syria beyond the defeat of IS.

Just two month back, in a phone call with the Russian President Putin, the President Trump seemed to be against such a move:

The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254, …

The U.S. move comes at the right time for Syria. The Russian, Turkish, Iranian and Syrian agreement of Astana set up a de-escalation zone in Idleb governorate but committed the parties to continue the fight against al-Qaeda. The agreement was in imminent danger of breaking down as Turkey protested against the current Syrian operation against al-Qaeda in east-Idleb. Turkey cooperates with al-Qaeda to keep its options open for a take-over of some Syrian land. It is also concerned about the north-western Kurdish enclave of Afrin which is protected by Russian forces.

But the U.S.move in the east constitutes a greater threat to Turkey than tiny Afrin. The east is more important to Turkey than Idelb in the west. The whole eastern half of Turkey is now endangered by a Kurdish force at its underbelly. The U.S. move increases Turkey’s incentive to keep the Astana agreement about Idleb intact and to re-unite with Syria, Russia and Iran against the U.S.-Kurdish alliance. Erdogan, with his usual rage, was clear that he can not and will not let the U.S. move stand:

“A country we call an ally is insisting on forming a terror army on our borders,” Erdogan said of the United States in a speech in Ankara. “What can that terror army target but Turkey?”

“Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.”

Joshua Landis believes that the U.S. has given up on Turkey as an ally and is solely committed to do Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s bidding. It is completely concentrated on countering Iran. But there are few if any Iranian troops in Syria and the supply line from Tehran to Damascus is via air and sea and can not be influenced from an enclosed Kurdish enclave. Moreover, the U.S. presence in the north-east is not sustainable.

The north-eastern U.S. held area of Syria is surrounded by forces hostile to it. Turkey in the north, Syria in the west and south, Iraq, with a pro-Iranian government, in the east. It has no ports and all its air-supplies have to cross hostile air space.

Internally the area consists of a Kurdish core but has nearly as many Arab inhabitants as Kurds. The Kurds are not united, there are many who are against the PKK/YPG and support the Syrian government. Probably half of the Arabs in the area were earlier Islamic State fighters and the other half favors the rule by Damascus. What all Arabs there have in common is hatred for their new Kurdish overlords. This all is fertile ground for an insurgency against the U.S. occupation and its Kurdish YPG proxy forces. It will need only little inducement and support from Damascus, Ankara or elsewhere to draw the U.S. presence into a chaotic fight for survival.

Turkey’s wannabe Sultan Erdogan has long tried to play Russia against the U.S. and vice versa. He ordered Russian air defense systems which will enable him to withstand a U.S. air attack. At the same time he allowed U.S. ships to pass the Bosporus Straits into the Black Sea and to threaten Russia in Crimea even when the Montreux Convention would have allowed him to restrict their passages. The U.S. now leaves him no choice. Russia is the one force that can help him to handle the new threat.

The NATO bigwigs in Brussels must be nervous. Turkey has the second biggest army within NATO. It controls the passage to the Black Sea and with Incirlik the most important NATO airbase in the south-eastern realm. All these give Turkey leverage that it can use when Russia offers it a decent alternative to NATO membership.

One wonders who in the White House developed this idea. It goes against everything Trump had said about U.S. engagement in the Middle East. It goes against NATO’s interests. There is no legal basis for the move. It has little chance of being sustainable.

My guess is that National Security Advisor McMaster (pushed by his mentor General Petraeus) is the brain behind this. He has already proven to lack any strategic vision beyond moving military brigades here and there. What will he do next? Order the CIA to restart arming al-Qaeda aka the “Syrian rebels” who just sent their emissaries to Washington to beg for renewed support? Turkey needs Russia and Russia is fighting those “Syrian rebels”. Why should Turkey, which controls the border to Syria, allow new CIA weapons to pass?

It is beyond me how the U.S. expects to sustain its positions in the north-east of Syria. It is hard to understand why it believes that such a position will give it any influence over Iran’s commitment to Syria. The move robs it of any political flexibility. It is a trap of its own design.

 

In the end the U.S. military will have to retreat from the area. The Kurds will have to crawl to Damascus to beg for forgiveness. The strategic shortsightedness of both, the U.S. administration and the YPG leadership, amazes me. What do these people think when they make such decisions?

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With ISIL collapsing in Syria, what is Washington’s next move?

August 31, 2017

By Aram Mirzaei

With ISIL collapsing in Syria, what is Washington’s next move?

Since the start of this year, with the Russian brokered “de-escalation” zones imposed on several areas in Syria where Washington’s “moderate” rebel proxies are operating, virtually all other forces in Syria have committed themselves to engaging the self-declared Islamic State.

With these developments, it did not take long for ISIL to feel the effects of this change in priorities. Starting from January/February, the Syrian government forces and its allies have liberated swathes of land from the terrorist group. By early April, ISIL had been kicked out of the Aleppo province while the Syrian Army continued to open multiple new fronts all over central Syria. By early August this year, ISIL had been almost kicked out of the Raqqa, Homs and Damascus provinces as a result of the Syrian Army’s massive push towards the besieged city of Deir Ezzor.

In the meantime, the US backed “moderate” proxies in Idlib and Western Aleppo have been forced to stand idly by as the Syrian Army expands its control over the country. This is a result of Russian diplomacy at its best. Attempts have been made before to reach such lasting ceasefire deals, most notably the one last year between Russia and the Obama regime, it failed miserably after the US “accidentally” bombed Syrian Army troops fighting ISIL in Deir Ezzor.

So why did it work this time? I argue that the major reason for the success of this latest ceasefire is mainly due to Washington being excluded from the deal. When reflecting on previous attempts to establish a lasting ceasefire and the reasons for its failures, compared to this one that is seemingly more successful than its predecessors, its not hard to conclude that Washington, was and has always been the main obstacle for peace in Syria after almost 7 years of fighting and suffering.

Quite recently, Washington also announced it was ending its support for “moderate” rebels in Southern Syria, sparking hopes among some naive observers that the proxy conflict might be coming to an end. These observers however fail to understand Washington’s commitment and dedication to assume control of a situation that has been slipping out of their hands ever since Russia officially entered the conflict in 2015. What they also fail to understand is that Washington did not just abandon its plans for Syria, indeed it is likely that they will have to abandon their illegal base in the Al-Tanf border region in Southern Syria, but that does not mean the end of Washington’s involvement in the conflict, because that would require Washington to admit to defeat, which they hardly are capable of doing.

Instead, Washington is preparing its next move, and it will make use of another long-standing proxy force of theirs- the SDF. The Kurdish-led militia has assumed a larger role as the conflict has been dragging on, with SDF forces occupying large parts of northern Syria after wrestling control of these areas from ISIL. The SDF has since its formation in 2015, acted as the main proxy force fighting for Washington’s interests under the guise of creating a “federative direct democratic union” in northern Syria, also known as Rojava, despite fierce protests from Washington’s NATO ally Turkey.

What is the Rojava?

Kurdish domination in Rojava, on the edge of the violent dissolution of the Syrian state, is hidden behind a thick ideological smokescreen from the good consciences of Western lefties. This area under the control of the nationalists of the PKK from Turkey casually intone the siren songs of ecology, feminism and participatory direct democracy. It’s a music relayed and amplified by all kinds of leftists and by the subsidiaries, established in developed countries, of the cult of adoration of Öcalan, the founder of the PKK imprisoned for more than fifteen years on the island of Imrali. So the claim made by these lefties, one that is confirmed by the Kurdish-led PYD party, is that the Rojava project opposes all kinds of imperialism.

In addition to scoring massive sympathy points among ignorant people in the West, this portrayal of Rojava as “anti-imperialist” and leftist has attracted different far-left violent extremist groups such as Antifa and other anarchists. These groups, often deemed as extremists and even terrorists in their own countries, travel from all over the world with their own agenda, under the guise of being part of an ”International freedom battalion” that fights fascism.

Yet this claim cannot reconcile with the fact that ironically enough, Rojava remains one of Washington’s closest allies in Syria, nor can it reconcile with the fact that these foreign leftists who have traveled to Syria “to fight imperialism and oppression” are playing the role of pawns in Washington’s so called war on terror. As a matter of fact, SDF spokesman Talal Silo made it clear that the SDF does not make a single move until their masters in Washington say so.

You would think that this was already a tragic case, but for some reason these days, it always gets worse.

On July 24 the so called ”International Revolutionary People’s Guerrilla Forces” (IRPGF), a group of international fighters and volunteers fighting alongside the SDF announced on their Twitter page the creation of a “subgroup comprised of LGBT comrades and others who seek to smash the gender binary”.

The group calling itself TQILA, was to join the fight against ISIL according to an announcement on Twitter. This announcement was soon picked up by Western media outlets amid gleeful reactions by leftists, progressives and gay celebrities on their social media accounts. We learn, from the founding statements of TQILA and its umbrella group, IRPGF, that their causes of “anarchism”, “smashing gender binary”, and “sexual revolution” are all connected to the most selling hegemonic narrative of the 21st century: the “war on terror”.

Why anarchists would go to a country devastated by war and terrorism for years and spread anarchism is beyond any reasonable person. It is not only ridiculous, but it is also playing into Washington’s plan to sow discord and chaos in the country.

This romantic sketching of a revolutionary path to utopia in a conflict that has shown the world how ”revolutions” can destroy an entire society is nothing short of pathetic.

The Rojava administration in northern Syria, which was founded by the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – YPG’s political arm – in 2013, has been portrayed as a success story of the “struggle against borders and for autonomy” by the international media and self-identified leftists and progressives.

Others applaud “the Kurds” – a common synonym used by leftists to refer to PYD – as “the best hope for left politics in the region”. PYD is also presented as a big champion for “gender equality” as a result of its inclusion of women in its armed forces.

Nevertheless, the PYD, like the rest of the conflicting parties in the region, commits human rights violations, targets its dissidents, including peaceful protesters and forcibly evacuates Arab and Turkman civilians – and some Kurds – from their villages.

There are also those that point to “the Kurds” as deserving of their own territory, because of their fight against ISIL. The last time I checked, no land and territory has ever been “deserved” by any people and given to them as charity, but rather it was conquered. It is also ironic that the same “kurds” that claim Rojava to be a social revolution based on multiethnic co-existence, are the same ones that base their argument for Rojava’s existence on ethno nationalist grounds, citing the century long struggle for “kurdish independence”. Of course, proponents of the Rojava project always seem to be missing the fact that kurds make up less than 10 % of Syria’s population and that they occupy almost a third of the country.

To suggest that “gender and sexual revolutions” are being accomplished by joining a party that fights on behalf of Washington’s is a colonial rewriting of Syria’s struggle. According to these international extremists and their leftist supporters the struggle is ”to fight imperial and state power”, but for the Syrian people, their struggle is one about self-determination, something that the US, its allies and these ”progressive” leftist idiots have been trying to deprive them for years.

What does Washington want with Rojava?

Since most Western leaders seem to have accepted the reality that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is not going anywhere as long as Russia is standing by his side, there must be a new plan. If the regime change agenda in Syria, motivated by a desire to disrupt the Iran-Syria alliance and thereby protecting Israel has failed, then the second best thing next to regime change in Syria would be to isolate Syria from Iraq and Iran. This would be achieved by cutting the Syrian Army off from the Deir Ezzor province, thereby severing any land connection between Syria and Iraq. Interestingly, this is exactly what the US-backed forces, airlifted by the US from the Al-Tanf area to southern Hasakah, have been planning. But this shouldn’t come as news to anybody since Washington and its allies have been quite open with this idea since 2012 already.

Washington has been betting on many horses over the course of the Syrian war, but none of them have ever been as successful as the SDF. Earlier experiments with Syrian proxies yielded little and actually managed to damage Washington’s reputation somewhat, especially when the ”moderate rebels”, trained and armed by the CIA turned to Al-Qaeda the moment they crossed the border from Turkey where they had been trained, into Syria.

In the SDF however, Washington has found a reliable proxy, one that is not shy to offer the US to establish military bases across its territory, one that has garnered a good reputation among people in the West as the only representative of democracy in Syria, and one that is never going to say no to Washington’s biddings.

Despite Washington assuring Turkey that it will not allow “the Kurds” to declare independence and break away from Syria, Washington will not pass up this opportunity to gain a major foothold in what could be considered a Russian and Iranian “zone of influence”. Thus Washington will do everything in its power, including maintaining a permanent military presence in Syria, to try to balance a co-existence between Turkey and “Rojava”. Even SDF spokesman Silo said: “The Americans have strategic interests here after the end of Daesh,” using a pejorative term for Islamic State. As earlier explained, those strategic interests are tightly connected to the original idea of overthrowing the Syrian government in an effort to protect Israel.

Silo also confirmed that Washington is going to be wanting something back for their support over these years:

“They (recently) referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings – they’re not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free,”Silo said.

He suggested northern Syria could become a new base for U.S. forces in the region. “Maybe there could be an alternative to their base in Turkey,” he added, referring to the Incirlik air base.

The head of the YPG said last month that Washington had established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria controlled by the YPG or SDF, including a major air base near Kobani, a town at the border with Turkey.

These moves made by Washington are intended to be long-term. They are in preparation for another conflict as the one against Jihadists and maniac throat cutters is coming to an end. Now, Washington’s true struggle for Syria begins, as the final phase of the Syrian conflict is about to start. With the SDF potentially being ordered to fight the Syrian Army and with the Syrian government rightly declaring the Rojava entity illegal and illegitimate, a confrontation between these two seems inevitable in the future.

US Ends CIA Program in Syria but Continues Preparations for Big War

US Ends CIA Program in Syria but Continues Preparations for Big War

ALEX GORKA | 23.07.2017 | WORLD

US Ends CIA Program in Syria but Continues Preparations for Big War

The news hits headlines. The Washington Post (WP) reports that President Trump has decided to discontinue the CIA’s covert program to arm and train «moderate» Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, according to US officials. The program was authorized by  Trump’s predecessor in 2013. The move is described by media as a major concession to Russia. «This is a momentous decision,» the WP cites an unnamed official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the secret program, «Putin won in Syria». Ned Price, a former CIA officer who served as senior director of the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, thinks «The White House appears content to kowtow to Moscow on any number of fronts — including in Syria». Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted that «if true – and I hope it’s not – it would be a complete capitulation to Assad, Russia, and Iran». But is it really a concession or a big policy change?

At first glance, the plans to oust the Assad government in Syria are shelved and there is nothing left but airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) militants and the Defense Department run train-and-equip program to support the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominated by Kurds. With the de-escalation zones coming into effect, the US is gradually reducing its involvement in the Syrian cauldron. But a deeper look into the matter leads to quite different conclusions.

The suspension of the CIA program is much ado about nothing, it was inefficient anyway. In fact, it does not change anything because the Pentagon program is in place. The US is not curtailing its involvement. To the contrary, it is increasing its military presence in Syria, and also in Iraq, by leaps and bounds.

The Turkish Anadolu Agency published a report on July 17 detailing the military facilities’ whereabouts and, in some instances, the number of special operations forces working there. It said two airfields and eight military outposts in Kobani, Manbij and Rumeilan, among others, are being used to support the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). One post in Ayn Issah town in northern Raqqa governorate housed around 200 US soldiers and 75 French special forces troops.

US-made armored vehicles, including MRAP, M-ATVs, and up-armored bulldozers have recently reinforced the forces in the area of Qamishli – a city in northeastern Syria on the border with Turkey. Guardian armored trucks and US up-armored Humvees are included in the coalition aid to the SDF, and according to the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2018 request for funds for train-and-equip program for Syrian partner forces, armored bulldozers are also included in aid to «vetted» Syrian groups, Military Times reports.

The source notes that M-ATVs and MRAPs are not part of the package that is divested to the Syrian Democratic Forces. Neither is the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station, or CROWs system, which appears mounted on the M-ATVs featured in the photographs spread around by media. The images of heavily armored American combat vehicles entering Syria seem to illustrate that the US is increasing the military presence in the region in general and in Syria in particular.

Last month, US High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems – HIMARS – were moved to al-Tanf base in the southeastern part of the country – one of three official border crossings between Syria and Iraq. HIMARS had already been deployed in northern Syria.

US, British, and Jordanian troops, equipped with tanks and helicopters, have been reportedly positioned in a long strip region across the border zones of Syria’s southern provinces of Dara’a and Suwayda, from Tel Shahab rural area, just a few hundred meters from the Jordanian border, to al-Nasib Border Crossing and Khirbet Awad village. Their presence has also been reported near Ramtha, a Jordanian city, located in the far northwest of the Arab country close to the Syrian border. There are no IS militants in that area, so the forces’ mission is to keep away the Syrian government and pro-Iranian forces.

According to an AP report made public in March, the United States had spent to date more than $11.5 billion on its intervention in Syria. Several hundreds of US special operation forces have been sent to Syria under the pretext of training Kurdish militia fighters.

Actually, American military personnel are not supposed to be present on Syrian soil at all. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 enables the president to act unilaterally in the event of «a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces». Syria has not attacked the United States. The US 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) gives no authority to enter Syria, which had no relation to the 9/11 terrorist act. The Syrian government may be painted as a batch of bad guys doing wrong things in their own country, but the UN charter prohibits the use of military force for retaliation or for reprisal or, punishment.

The administration is pushing Congress for the authority to build new «temporary» facilities in Iraq and Syria. That’s what its recent policy statement says. The president wants Congress to extend existing authorities that only cover the «repair and renovation» of facilities to also encompass «temporary intermediate staging facilities, ammunition supply points, and assembly areas that have adequate force protection».

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of who currently commands Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve and the XVIII Airborne Corps, said the campaign is now expected to expand into the Euphrates River Valley after Iraqi forces retook Mosul. The general acknowledged that a continued US military force presence in the region could include the use of temporary facilities set up on an ad hoc basis, such as those proposed by the administration, but would mostly draw upon existing bases. Little by little, the bird is making a nest in Syria.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the IS in the country is concluded. The parties appear to agree that a longer-term presence of American troops is needed. The US military has about 7,000 troops in Iraq.

As one can see, there are multiple signs that the United States is increasing war preparations in the region. One of the missions is to prepare for a possible conflict with Iran. Another is strengthening the bargaining position at the talks on de-escalation zones in Syria and the talks on crisis management in Geneva. Any scenario can ignite a spark to light a fire.

Russia and the US could put aside all the differences and launch bilateral confidential talks on Syria. An open, honest conversation protected from any leaks to media could help to prevent the worst form happening. Moscow could act as a mediator between the Astana group and the US-led coalition. The mutually agreed proposals could then be submitted to other pertinent actors for discussion and approval. But the refusal to return Russian diplomatic compounds shows the US is not ready for a dialogue. Looks like Washington prefers to balance on the brink of war in the region in an effort to boost its influence and make the situation unfold the way it wants.

The Kurds: Washington’s Weapon of Mass Destabilization in the Middle East

Part I of the Three-Part Series

Global Research, July 14, 2017
The Rabbit Hole 13 July 2017

In this three part series, MintPress  and Global Research contributor Sarah Abed analyzes the role that some Kurdish factions have played throughout history in helping major powers create chaos in the Middle East – from the Kurdish uprising in Iraq in the 1960s to the ongoing conflict in Syria today.

SYRIA (Analysis)– Historical accounts of the Kurds have been a subject of mystery and perplexity for years, and have been seldom discussed by major Western media outlets until recently. Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the ongoing conflict in Syria, Kurds have been romanticized by mainstream media and U.S. politicians alike to justify a Western interventionist narrative in those countries. Ever since the U.S. invaded Syria, the U.S. and Israel have supported the semi-autonomous Kurdistan, with Israel purchasing $3.84 billion dollars worth of oil from them, a move that could have geopolitical and economic ramifications for both parties.

In 2015, the Financial Times reported that Israel had imported as much as 77 percent of its oil supply from Kurdistan in recent months, bringing in some 19 million barrels between the beginning of May and August 11. During that period, more than a third of all northern Iraqi exports, shipped through Turkey’s Ceyhan port, went to Israel, with transactions amounting to almost $1 billion, the report said, citing “shipping data, trading sources, and satellite tanker tracking.”

The sales are a sign of Iraqi Kurdistan’s growing assertiveness and the further fraying of ties between Erbil and Baghdad, which has long harbored fears that the Kurds’ ultimate objective is full independence from Iraq.

Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, (Y.P.G), stand guard next to American armored vehicles at the Syria-Turkey border, Apri, 2017. (Youssef Rabie Youssef/EPA)

In 1966, Iraqi defense minister Abd al-Aziz al-Uqayli blamed the Kurds of Iraq for seeking to establish “a second Israel” in the Middle East. He also claimed that “the West and the East are supporting the rebels to create [khalq] a new Israeli state in the north of the homeland as they had done in 1948 when they created Israel. Interestingly enough, history is repeating itself with their present-day relationship – the existence of which is only acknowledged in passing by either side for fear of retribution.

For much of the conflict in Syria, several Kurdish militias have become some of the U.S.-led coalition’s closest allies within the country, receiving massive amounts of arms and heavy weapon shipments, as well as training from coalition members. Kurdish militias also dominate the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the U.S.-backed group best known for leading the coalition-supported offensive targeting the Daesh (ISIS) stronghold of Raqqa.The weapons that the United States has provided Kurdish and Arab fighters in the anti-Islamic State coalition include heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank weapons, armored cars and engineering equipment.

In May, U.S. President Donald Trump approved arming Kurdish militiamen in Syria with heavy weaponry, including mortars and machine guns. Within one month of Trump’s approval, 348 trucks with military assistance had been passed to the group, Anadolu added. According to the news agency’s data, the Pentagon’s list of weapons to be delivered to the group includes 12,000 Kalashnikov rifles, 6,000 machine guns, 3,000 grenade launchers and around 1,000 anti-tank weapons of Russian or U.S. origin.

The United States’ shipments included 130 trucks, with 60 cars passing on June 5, and 20 vehicles on June 12, per Sputnik News.

On June 17, Sputnik News reported that the United States is still supplying the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria with ammunition to fight Daesh, delivering 50 truckloads in one day alone, according to Turkish media reports. Earlier in the day, the trucks reached the city of al-Hasakah in northwest Syria.

Both historical and modern day ties between Israel and the Kurds have brought benefits to both sides. In the past, Israel has obtained intelligence, as well as support, for a few thousand Jews fleeing Ba’athist Iraq. The Kurds have received security and humanitarian aid, as well as links to the outside world, especially the United States. The first official acknowledgment that Jerusalem had provided aid to the Kurds dates back to Sept. 29, 1980, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin disclosed that Israel had supported the Kurds “during their uprising against the Iraqis in 1965 to 1975” and that the United States was aware of this fact. Begin added that Israel had sent instructors and arms, but not military units.

Ethnic Kurdish Israelis protest outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel, July 8, 2010.

The Kurds are the largest group of nomadic people in the world that have remained stateless since the beginning of time. This fact has allowed Western powers to use the “stateless” plight of the Kurdish people as a tool to divide, destabilize and conquer Iraq and Syria, where colonial oil and gas interests run deep.

The U.S.-led coalition of war criminals is using elements of Syria’s Kurdish population to achieve its goal of destroying the non-belligerent, democratic country of Syria, led by its popular, democratically-elected President Bashar al-Assad. Washington seeks to create sectarianism and ethnic divides in a country that, prior to the Western-launched war, had neither.

However, Kurdologists reject this characterization because it does not fit into their account of historical events that attributes a state to them at one point in time. Their estimated population is 30 million, according to most demographic sources. They also reject the idea that they are being used as pawns.

Responding to a question about where the autonomous administration would “draw the line” on U.S. support and the support of other superpowers, the co-leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Salih Muslim Muhammad, stated

“Our guarantee is our mindset. It depends on how much we educate and organize our people. If we defend our morals and ideology, then bigger powers cannot use us as pawns.”

Perhaps no other group of people in modern times has been as romanticized in the Western conscience as the Kurds. Consistently portrayed as “freedom fighters” who are eternally struggling for a land denied to them, the Kurds have been frequently utilized throughout history by other countries and empires as an arrow and have never themselves been the bow.

In today’s case, the Kurds are being used by NATO and Israel to fulfill the modern-day colonialist aim of breaking up large states like Iraq into statelets to ensure geopolitical goals. When nations are divided into smaller statelets, they are easier to conquer by foreign entities. This is a signature move that powerful imperialist nations use for the purpose of colonizing smaller and less influential nations. The Kurds have been utilized as pawns in this “divide and conquer” strategy throughout history and continue to allow themselves to be used by colonial powers.

Ultra-leftist opportunists or real revolutionaries?

In an article written in 2007, NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr stated that the Kurds of Iraq have a long history of being used as pawns in regional power struggles. Now, they are finding themselves in the middle of a contest between the United States and Iran for dominance in the Middle East.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had the CIA instigate a Kurdish uprising in northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein. The United States walked away from the rebellion when Saddam and the Shah of Iran settled their differences, leaving the Kurds to face their own fate. Interestingly, the Kurds seem to have developed amnesia by once again choosing to cooperate with Washington, which has repeatedly used them solely for its own benefit.

In the Gulf War over the Iraqi seizure of Kuwait in 1990, President George H.W. Bush appealed to the Kurds, as well as the Shiites in the south, to rise up in rebellion against Saddam.

A Kurd kisses a picture of United States President George W. Bush during celebrations in the streets of Sulaymaniyah, northern Iraq Wednesday April 9, 2003. (AP/Kevin Frayer)

Victorious in that war, the American military permitted Saddam to retain his helicopter gunships, which he used to retaliate against the Kurds, along with Shiites, by the hundreds. American public opinion eventually forced the administration to establish northern and southern no-fly zones to protect the two populations.

Kurdish loyalty to America has cost them quite a bit, and so it is with a certain narcissism that the Bush administration presumed to tell the allegedly autonomous Kurds what kind of relations they could entertain with other countries in the region, including American rival Iran. But the Kurds appear to be finding themselves in a contest between the U.S. and Iran for dominance in the Middle East yet again.

Andrew Exum, a former top Pentagon Middle East policy official who served as an Army Ranger, stated

”… this decision — to arm a group closely associated with a foreign terrorist organization, and one that has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state — will likely reverberate through U.S. relations with Turkey for decades to come.”

The Turkish government has long insisted that the Kurdish militia is closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a separatist group known as the PKK. That group is listed by Turkey, the United States and Europe as a terrorist organization.

A rough estimate found in the CIA Factbook sets the Kurdish population at 14.5 million in Turkey, 6 million in Iran, about 5 to 6 million in Iraq and less than 2 million in Syria, which adds up to close to 28 million Kurds in what they refer to as “Kurdistan” and adjacent regions.

However, other sources state that there are only about 1.2 million Kurds left in Syria due to the carefully calculated and planned imposed war by NATO and its Gulf Allies. Roughly the same number migrated to Germany during the past six years.

It’s important to differentiate between Kurdish people who have assimilated in the countries they now reside in and reject the idea of establishing an illegal Kurdistan and those who are power hungry and are allowing themselves to team up with the West and Israel to assist in the destabilization of the region. Some Kurdish people in Syria, especially those that reside in areas that are not controlled by the Kurds, such as Damascus, are loyal to the Syrian government and have stated that they voted for Assad in 2014.

This free and democratic election saw Assad win 88.7 percent of the popular vote over the other two nominees. In the beginning of the war in Syria, there were Kurds fighting in the Syrian Arab Army, who received arms and salaries just like their Syrian counterparts. There are a small number that are still in the Syrian Arab Army in the southern Syria.

But in northeastern Syria, many Kurds have defected to the U.S.-led SDF where arms, salaries, and training are provided by the U.S. Syrians consider the Kurds who have remained loyal to Syria as their fellow Syrian brothers and sisters and the descriptions of Kurdish treachery in this article do not apply to them.

The loosely-knit coalition of Syrian rebel groups known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are armed, trained and backed by the U.S. The group is currently engaged in the early stages of battle in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, Syria.

Independence and disunity

An important thing to remember is that the ethnic marker “Kurd” refers to speakers of several different related, but distinct, languages. The two most important are Sorani in Iraq and Iran and Kurmanji in Syria, Turkey and smaller contiguous regions in Iraq and Iran. Sorani tends to use Arabic script, while Kurmanji uses Latin script, which shows how different they can be from one another.

Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is predominantly made up of Sorani speakers, while the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), PYD and other nationalist groups in Syria and Turkey speak Kurmanji. This division naturally maps these divergent political expressions. It is not as simple as superimposing the KRG’s borders over the PYD and PKK-controlled territory.

On the other hand, Turkey does not contest Sorani speakers’ aspirations to the same extent as it does Kurmanji speakers. Encouraging the autonomy of the Iraqi Kurds should not entail the same problems for the Turco-American alliance as encouraging Syro-Turkish Kurdish nationalism would.

The quest for independence is intrinsic to Kurdish identity. However, not all Kurds envision a unified Kurdistan that would span the Kurdish regions of four different sovereign countries. Most Kurdish movements and political parties are focused on the concerns and autonomy of Kurds within their respective countries. Within each country, there are Kurds who have assimilated and whose aspirations may be limited to greater cultural freedoms and political recognition.

Kurd

Kurds throughout the Middle East have vigorously pursued their goals through a multitude of groups. While some Kurds established legitimate political parties and organizations in efforts to promote Kurdish rights and freedom, others have waged armed struggles. Some, like the Turkish PKK, have employed guerrilla tactics and terror attacks that have targeted civilians, including their fellow Kurds.

The wide array of Kurdish political parties and groups reflects the internal divisions among Kurds, which often follow tribal, linguistic and national fault lines, in addition to political disagreements and rivalries. Tensions between the two dominant Iraqi Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) escalated to a civil war that killed more than 2,000 Kurds in the mid-1990s.

Political disunity stretches across borders as well, with Kurdish parties and organizations forming offshoots or forging alliances in neighboring countries. Today, disagreements over prospects for Kurdish autonomy in Syria or Iraqi Kurds’ relations with the Turkish government have fostered tensions that have pitted the Iraqi KDP and its Syrian sister organization, the KDP-S, against the PKK and its Syrian offshoot, the PYD. Still, adversarial Kurdish groups have worked together when it has been expedient. The threat posed by Daesh has led the KDP-affiliated Peshmerga to fight alongside Syrian PYD forces.

Kurdish groups have, at times, bargained with not only their own governments but also neighboring ones – in some cases at the expense of their relations with their Kurdish brethren. The complex relationships among Kurdish groups and between the Kurds and the region’s governments have fluctuated, and alliances have formed and faltered as political conditions have changed. The Kurds’ disunity is cited by experts as one of the primary causes for their inability to form a state of their own.

The Kurds’ illegal, unjustified claims for autonomy

The West claims that the Kurds are one of the most moral and dignified forces in the Middle East fighting against Daesh. But if their focus is on defeating Daesh, as they claim, why are they committing genocide against Syrians in the process? Taking this into consideration, it is hard to justify the West’s persistent claim that armed Kurdish terrorist groups are trying to help Syria. The reality on the ground contradicts these empty compliments, which the West uses to save face while supporting these terrorist organizations. This false narrative was in fact used to arm the Kurds in Syria in order to create instability and division.

U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces raise their flag in the center of the town of Manbij after driving ISIS out of the area, in Aleppo province, Syria. (ANHA via AP)

It is strange that the Kurds would be so antagonistic towards Syrians, as the country has largely been welcoming for them. For example, reforms were made in Syria in 2012 to benefit the Kurds.

“President Assad issued a decree granting Arab Syrian citizenship to people registered as foreigners in the (governorate of Hassake),” said the SANA news agency.

The measure, which benefited about 300,000 Kurds, came a week after Assad tasked a committee with “resolving the problem of the 1962 census in the governorate of Hassake.”

In January 2015, SANA news reported that then-Syrian Prime Minister Dr. Wael al-Halqi said:

“the Kurds are a deeply-ingrained component of the Syrian society and Ayn al-Arab is part of Syria that is dear to the hearts of all Syrians.”

Al-Halqi’s affirmation came during his meeting with a Kurdish delegation which comprised Kurdish figures. He also urged all to discard violence and spread amity, reiterating that a solution to the Syrian crisis could be achieved “through national dialogue and consolidating national reconciliations,” indicating that dialogue will definitely be “under the homeland’s umbrella away from foreign dictates.”

In 2014, The Civil Democratic Gathering of Syrian Kurds said that the steadfastness of the people of Ayn al-Arab in the face of terrorists was a form of expression of the Syrian Kurds’ commitment to their affiliation to their homeland of Syria. The gathering’s Higher Council of Secretaries said that the steadfastness of Ayn al-Arab was cause for admiration and that attempts to transgress against the territorial integrity of Syria were parts of a plot to cause chaos and division and undermine the resistance axis.

These are just a few examples of the Syrian government’s attempts to unify all of those who live within the country’s borders. But even with these actions of good faith, the SDF has chosen to side with Syria’s enemies rather than work with the Syrian army.

A recent agreement – initiated and brokered by the U.S. between a Free Syrian Army (FSA) faction and the Kurdish-led SDF lays out conditions whereby U.S.-initiated negotiations would allow the FSA faction al-Muatasim Brigade to peacefully take over 11 villages in northern Syria that are controlled by the SDF. The general outlines of this unprecedented agreement were announced on May 10, stating that the U.S.-led coalition had delegated to al-Muatasim the task of being in charge of and administering the designated villages.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

Al-Muatasim is known to be a strong ally of the U.S., which is why it was chosen to be in charge of the designated villages. This further proves the point that the U.S., SDF and FSA are still working together. Their cooperation is part of an effort to counter the progress being made by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies.

In Part II of MPN’s Sarah Abed analysis of the Kurds’ role in helping the U.S. and Israel destabilize the Middle East, she will explore more of their ties to Israel and other countries, as well as their links to Daesh.

Sarah Abed is an independent journalist and political commentator. Focused on exposing the lies and propaganda in mainstream media news, as it relates to domestic and foreign policy with an emphasis on the Middle East. Contributed to various radio shows, news publications and spoken at forums. For media inquiries please email sarahabed84@gmail.com.

All images in this article are from the author.

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